If you’re reading this on your phone, minimise this window and check your email for a second. If your inbox is cluttered with over a 100 unread emails, then maybe it’s time to reorganise and reorder. In face of your abject laziness, you may be missing out on some extremely important messages.
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Although it is difficult to be prompt when it comes to replying to mails, you always have the option of building and following a system which allows you to keep up with the constant barrage of the day’s mail. According to the Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, following a scheduled system diligently has helped him become more productive and efficient at his everyday work, reaping gains for the company on the whole. Hsieh, an American internet entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist, reveals his own fool-proof system of email management, which he calls the ‘Yesterbox’ method.
Having followed the system for over a decade now, Hsieh confesses that the trick to develop an effective system comes from years of practice at the job. As he put it candidly through his book, Delivering Happiness, “…there are no experts in what we’re doing. Except for us: we are becoming experts as we do this.”
Here’s how Hsieh carries out his innovative emailing technique every day:
Fix an allotted time
This may sound a bit oversimplified, but like everything else in life, it’s the simplest measures that produce the greatest results. Hsieh makes it a point to begin the mornings with sorting out his mails. While you should allot a period that suits you the best, i.e when you’re the most free, you should make sure to stick by that particular period to check, sort, and reply to all your important mails for the day. The amount of time you spend on this depends on the number of emails you have.
Often we try to reply to all emails that pique our interest at once. But this impulsive act can make it a colossal pain to sort through the others later. This is why you need to make a mental note of which emails require an instant reply and which can be dealt with later. Recognise the urgency of an email and reply immediately to only those which fall under this category.
Don’t be impulsive
Keeping in tune with the point above, Hsieh follows a strict policy of dealing with a mail or problem only at its allotted time. For instance, if you have pegged a particular email to be responded to tomorrow and find yourself getting free earlier than you thought today, don’t clamour to get on to tomorrow’s work today. It’s better to have a fresh head and perspective when it comes to responding to important emails.
Deal with the old before the new
Hsieh claims that it is quite challenging to maintain enough discipline to refrain from checking for incoming emails while you’re reading through the old ones. To this end, you should make it a rule to check new mails only after dealing with 10 of the old ones. This, he claims, will bring a good balance to the old and the new.
Set a separate folder for the tough ones
Email services today allow you to ‘star’ or ‘archive’ any mail you think is important or which falls under a separate category altogether. These mails, which usually demand considerable thought, research, and analysis to reply to, should be marked and shifted to a separate folder and given a specially allotted time with to deal with later.
Your schedule and system can go haywire on days when you fall sick, have back-to-back meetings, or go away on vacation. On such days, you can prioritise your emails accordingly. However, ensure that you stick to your new schedule without making any excuses.
Following this system is what helped the CEO of the Zappos to become more productive and effective at his job as he is today. So it’s time to do the same for yourself.