There's no shortage of hacks for just about everything, but I always pay attention to the latest productivity tips. Especially when it comes to the number one productivity drain: email.
Laura Mae Martin, Executive Productivity Advisor at Google (her job is to share insights/tips with other Googlers on increasing productivity), recently shared her top 10 Google Keyword email management tips.
Set blocks of time for when you log in to email, but don't overwhelm yourself with constant notifications. On your phone, you can set up notifications for a select set of emails, say from your boss, for example. This helps maximize prioritization and minimize distractions.
As an entrepreneur, I have opted for a no-notification policy to be effective in protecting my thinking/creating time.
The idea is to avoid getting another follow-up email from a coworker. Martin recommends responding with "Hi, I got this email, but I won't get it until later this week!" as a great way to set expectations and show them you're in it.
This helps you avoid the tendency to check constantly (which is hard to avoid when your inbox is watching you). It makes re-engaging in email a more intentional exercise and can help you block out deep thought time.
I close my email when I'm done checking it and even keep a tally on a post-it note of how many times I'm reopening the email tab (I try to limit to 3-4 times per day so clearly they still have a way to go).
Click it once, read it, tag it/tag its future action, then click it again when you're ready to reply to the email.
As Martin says, "Most people bounce between sorting through an email to read later, reading one, replying, and repeating. We waste so much energy switching between these activities. Instead, ask yourself 'now I'm sorting everything myself.' Then when you're done, read everything you need to read.”
Not doing this is a missed opportunity for a sense of accomplishment. Be strict in determining whether you really need to take action on any email. I find that when I leave my inbox cluttered with emails that I just haven't deleted yet, it gives me unnecessary (and wrong) fearful signals that I have a lot to do.
This means making sure that every piece of communication that arrives in your inbox is worth the time it takes to attend to it. To help you out, Martin says, "You can create filters so that certain emails "bypass your inbox" and don't show up as new emails. For example, if you get a lot of email newsletters, set up a filter with "Has the words: unsubscribe': Now, those emails won't distract you, but you can look for them later."
Combining both is just confusing and inefficient. Martin says that new emails should appear in one section and emails you've already read that require action in a different section. You can create a Multiple Inbox panel or "move" emails to a different label that denotes a specific action (like "To Do" or "Follow Up").
It's easy to get distracted by new emails arriving. It's like a microcosm of life: shiny new things can quickly grab our attention and lead us to task. Put new emails in sleep emails if you must (a feature that lets you postpone the ability to read new emails until a time after you designate them) or include them in starred emails (marked as important to come back to later).
Martin says he can search by date, sender, subject (and more) and can get even more specific with queries like "has: attachment" or "older_than: 6m".