Are you one of those people who have hundreds if not thousands of emails in your inbox? Would you like to get down to Inbox Zero? Or Maybe Inbox 99? If so, try this approach:
1) First, for these next few steps, you will not open or read ANY emails. Just look at your inbox.
2) Second, sort your emails by sender. Go through and delete all emails you don’t need: email from people you don’t know or don’t care to respond to, emails from mailing lists (don’t worry, they will send you more), unsolicited email, spam, emails from your ex, etc. Delete delete delete. Read nothing.
3) Third, sort your emails by date. Delete all emails that are a year old or more. Can’t bear to do that for some reason? Then if you must, create a folder called “Attic” or “Basement” and put them there. (You will no more read them then you will look at the stuff you have stuffed in your real attic or basement either, but if it makes you feel better). Again, no reading: delete or file.
4) Ok, you have emails from the past year. Go through and sort them by subject. See all those emails with the same subject, or the “re: re:…”. Chances are you only need to keep one of those. Then delete the rest.
5) Now sort them again by date. Go to the oldest. For everyone you see, ask yourself: is this referring to something that’s over or resolved? If so, delete it or put it in the Attic folder.
6) Go through emails from newsletters. Open only to UNSUBSCRIBE. Otherwise delete.
7) Reminders for bills, etc. Write that down then file or delete.
8) Meetings that have past? Delete.
Now whatever emails you have, you can open. Try to skim them, but do this:
1) If it is an FYI, file or delete. Do NOT reply.
2) If someone did you a favor or a service, reply through non-email: a message, text or phone message even. Do not reply by email.
3) If it is a complex email, figure out what the ACTUAL request is. Write it down. Send them an email just with the request and your response; file or delete the other email.
Now the only emails you have left that are either from colleagues or family and friends. Deal with the most important ones first. Of those, make lists of what they are asking. Then consider whether to just deal with them the next time you see them. Whenever possible, do not reply via email.
By this point you should have alot less email. Look at you being all productive and efficient. Congrats! You did good.
For fans (or critics) of productivity books, here’s a review of “Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business” in The New Yorker.
It’s a good review of such a book. Better than the usual synopsis. Also good to think about on a Monday as you roll into work and figure out how you are going to tackle – or avoid – the week and what it entails.
Easy. Don’t make these mistakes: These Seven To-Do List Mistakes Could Be Derailing Your Productivity
What should you do?
1. Write your lists the day before
2. Don’t have too many items
3. Have items you can truly do that day
4. Prioritize items
5. Be specific
6. Create a fresh list each day
7. Link it to your calendar
If you need guidance, see the article.
It’s a skill writing a good todo list. Having better ones means you have a better or at least a more productive day.
As someone who is in the maximalist camp (as opposed to the minimalist camp) I love this idea: Why I Use 3 Monitors to Boost Productivity (And You Should, Too) | Inc.com. It’s hard to pull off at home, but I have such a set up at home and it really does work. I have a monitor off to the side for messaging systems and email, I have a second monitor attached to my laptop which I use for what I am focused on, and I have my laptop screen I use for supporting my focus work.
True, if you have a Mac, you can have multiple Desktops and easily swipe from one to the other. I do that in workspaces where I can’t have multiple physical monitors. When I can have them, I like the multiple physical monitor approach. Frankly, I would like to have even more!
The pomodoro approach to work seems smart. You set a timer for 25 to focus on a task. When the timer goes off, you take a 5 minute break. Then you repeat this process.
When I first heard of it, I thought: what a great idea! I tried it a number of times and failed. The reason I failed, and why you may be failing, is that I cannot focus for 25 minutes. It’s sad, but true.
The simple trick that works for me is to adjust the times from 25:5 to 15:5. I find I can focus for 15, and a 5 minute break is just enough.
I find that even though I take more breaks, I also have more focus time throughout the day, which means I still benefit. Plus, once I get on a roll, I skip some of the breaks.
If you want to get on and stay on the pomodoro bandwagon, adjust your focus time until you find your sweet spot. Your overall productivity will go up, I’m sure.
A smart approach to managing your time is allocating no more than 20 minutes to any task you need to do. So says this: Everything should take 20 minutes | The Outline.
The reasoning in a nutshell:
Think about a task you wish to or must complete, and imagine how long it should take you. If you are a right-thinking person like myself, the answer is “20 minutes.” A 10-minute task is hardly a task at all, more of a minor interruption, and anything that takes 30 minutes invites the thought that you could have watched a half-hour episode of television instead. Twenty minutes is, objectively, the ideal amount of time — the Goldilocks number when it comes to doing things.
Now you can quibble about it, but it’s a smart rule. If you are still unsure, read the piece.
You can use Spotify to listen to music while you work. But sometime music can be distracting. Sometime all you want is to drown out the sounds in your work environment. During those times, a good alternative to music is rain sounds. Spotify has a lot of different rain sounds to choose from. Well worth trying for those noisy work spaces that you need to be productive in.
Another good way to be productive is to use the Flow desktop app for the Mac. I’ve tried many a timer app and I like this one best. It is simple to get started with. It reminds you when to take a break and when to work, but let’s you chose if you want to get back into the flow. It can block out certain apps that might prevent you from being productive, like your browser. Also worth a look.
(Image from pexels.com)