Last Updated on April 1, 2022 by Stephanie
Want to know one of the best productivity hacks out there? Minimize your digital distractions! What’s the number in your red circle? You know… the one that’s attached to your email on your phone. I have a few different people in my life, whom I mentioned in my blog post about healthy habits, that have thousands of unread emails. Are you this person? Maybe it isn’t in the thousands, but instead in the hundreds. The majority of the time, I don’t even have a red circle. When I do, it doesn’t usually get past 20 or so notifications. Let me tell you why this was an absolute game-changer for my productivity. I’m warning you now that this is a meaty set of posts. In fact, I’m breaking this into three different posts because honestly, it might take some people several days to process their emails. This first one will tell you what InBox Zero is and how it can help you. The second post here will give you an actionable process to initially clean out your inbox for good! Then, the last will tell you how to maintain this!
Some Facts About Email That Help You Understand Why It Tanks Your Productivity
4.03 billion people use email around the world. During one 2018 study, they found that people born between 1981 and 1996 spend 6.4 hours a day on email. Holy crap… I can’t even. Now, if you click on the link to this article, there is a lot more technical data about emails and email marketing. The takeaway from this is that there are a lot of emails being sent. There are a lot of emails being unread. Lastly, almost nobody unsubscribes from email lists.
Don’t worry, I read everything that’s important!
This is what my friends say. They assure me that they don’t miss important emails and they also say things like “I want to make sure that I keep those in case I need anything” or “Oh it doesn’t bother me.” On the surface level, sure, but if I’m going to dig deep here, this isn’t going to work.
I love David Allen who wrote the book “Getting Things Done”. Allen’s book shifted my mindset and helped me de-stress more than anything else I’ve ever done. It has helped my productivity immensely. In his book, he talks about our mental RAM, likening our brains to computers. In fact, many others agree, that in the morning our brains start out like a big empty bucket ready to go. As the day goes on, we fill the bucket. If you do small, mindless things, it takes away the space for the bigger tasks that you need to accomplish. I talk about this in my post on 5 Healthy Habits, so it is important to me.
Every time you look at your phone or open your inbox, you are hit with all that is in there. If you see 1,000 emails, even if you’ve already looked at most of them, you still have to weed through them. You have to double-check. You need to do the math and remember what the number was an hour ago when you last looked at it. Your brain is being affected by it! If you click on the article above, you also found out that people check these inboxes every couple of hours!
Inbox Zero: What is it?
Inbox zero is picking only a couple of times a day to look at your email. When you do, process your email down to nothing in your inbox. Yes, processing each piece of email appropriately every time instead of leaving it in there. It is taking control of your email and the hold that it has over you during your day. I forgot which book I was reading at the time, but when you frequently check emails during the day, you are essentially letting something and someone else control you and part of your day.
This may be an extreme statement, but as a teacher, this is totally true all the time. You sit down to work on something and in a moment of weakness (i.e. procrastination) and you think “I’ll just check my email really quick.” This can be a spiral of several different things…
- You see an email from a store that and then proceed to click through and look at all the sales and waste 20 minutes scrolling through things that you aren’t going to actually buy.
- An email from the nextdoor app pops up, letting you know a neighbor posted in the app, and because it’s “that neighbor”, you then troll the comments because you know they are going to be gold!
- You get an email from your principal telling you that you need to fill out this Google Form before the next meeting, which isn’t until next week, but you still take 5 minutes to do it now anyway.
- There’s an email from your child’s teacher about how little Susie isn’t turning her homework in, and then go through all of Susie’s Google classroom information, all of her grades online, etc.
Be absolutely honest with yourself… does the above ever happen to you? Heck yes, it does!
I am especially guilty on the weekends of those first two. Going down the rabbit hole of the store emails and places where people can make comments can be my downfall.
Sabotoging Your Productivity
The above is a waste of your time and your time is worth more than this! Oftentimes, you are going through your email and thinking that you are being so productive with your time. When you are done checking your email, that big thing you needed to get done is still not done. You probably even have more on your list than you did before!
In his awesome book, “Deep Work”, Cal Newport talks about these digital distractions and our addiction to them. Our addiction is rewiring our brains. It is going away from being able to concentrate and do deep work. Close that tab while you’re working. Then, you aren’t tempted to even look at what pops up. Turn off the notification on your phone. If it is an emergency, those that matter will find a way to get hold of you!
In the next couple of posts, I’m going to cover how to initially process your inbox so you can get to inbox zero inititally. Then I’m going to teach you how to maintain your inbox forever to keep it manageable.
I used to be in your boat and I practice what I preach here. I can honestly tell you that this is one of the best things I’ve ever committed to. This is a productivity game-changer.
You’ve convinced me that I need to change, now what?
Woohoo!!! Get ready to get excited and get hold of your inbox for good!
Check out the next post in this series about how to initially clean out your inbox and begin your journey with Inbox Zero.
Which type of email person are you? Do you already practice this, or do you have thousands of emails in your inbox right now? Tell me below!