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An empty inbox is never their goal

An empty inbox is never their goal
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Email is a crucial factor in accomplishing your goals, but in and of itself, it isn’t meaningful. Sure, having zero unread messages gives you short-term satisfaction, but an empty inbox says nothing about your productivity. In fact, you’ll end up fighting a losing battle as it starts to refill immediately. Keep your focus on your important messages, and don’t stress if you don’t get to read every single email that comes your way. “If you can accept that it’s just not going to happen, you’ve taken the first step towards removing yourself from the productivity rat race,” writes Glei. “In the grand scheme of things, email is just one small part of doing great work.”

They start their day with more meaningful work

They start their day with more meaningful work
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Checking your email first thing in the morning immediately frames your day around other people’s demands. Rather than heading straight for your unread messages, take advantage of the peak energy you have when you first get to the office by first working on your most meaningful tasks for at least an hour. Then, when you finally do open your inbox, you’ll already be well into a productive day.

They cut down on the back-and-forth

They cut down on the back-and-forth
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Streamline your emails by answering each message as fully as you can, so the receiver has less need to send follow-up questions. For instance, if a co-worker asks you to lunch, instead of reacting with a simple “Sure!” specify a date, time and location that work for you. Your colleague can give a simple yes or no, rather than stretching the conversation out for several more messages.

Email isn’t their only way to communicate

Email isn’t their only way to communicate
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Because you can’t read tone or body language in a written message, email can lead to misinterpretations and frustration. When you’re having a delicate conversation, brainstorming, or making complex decisions, skip the email chain and pick up the phone or drop into your co-worker’s office. “You’ll be rescuing yourself, and everyone else, from those annoying email threads that drag on for 15-20 messages and constantly interrupt you throughout the day,” writes Glei.

They use the two-minute rule

They use the two-minute rule
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Follow this rule of thumb from productivity expert David Allen: If you can finish your response in two minutes, send it right away. If you procrastinate, you’ll end up using more effort to find it and reprocess it later. “This does not mean you should respond to all emails that take less than two minutes,” writes Glei, “rather, it means that you should respond to all emails that you can process quickly and that relate to ‘people who matter’ or your meaningful work goals.” Anything that isn’t a priority can wait until later – if you happen to have time.

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Folders are their friends

Folders are their friends
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With just one inbox folder, your messages will be jumbled into one chaotic void. Organise your emails into folders that will keep you on track. One easy setup: ‘reply’ for ones you need to respond to, ‘waiting’ for those that you need to hear back from, and ‘archive’ for messages you might reference later. Consider putting your spam emails into a specific folder.

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They turn off notifications

They turn off notifications
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“There are two types of emailers: ‘reactors’ who rely on notifications and near-constant monitoring of their inboxes to nibble away at their emails throughout the day, and ‘batchers’, who set aside specific chunks of time to power through their emails so they can ignore it the rest of the day,” writes Glei. As soon as a new email pops on reactors’ screens, their focus is gone, so turn off your own notifications to cut down on distractions. Instead, make yourself a batcher by setting aside two or three 30 to 60-minute chunks every day to check and reply to emails.

They use a different calendar

They use a different calendar
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If your calendar is linked to your email, you might be hesitant in turning off all notifications. Create a loophole by syncing your email calendar with a separate calendar app. Turn notifications on for the app only – you’ll get all the event alerts you need, without the distracting email pop-ups.

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They only get notifications from certain people

They only get notifications from certain people
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While it’s easy enough to hold off on a response to a client for a few hours, your boss might need a faster reply. Gmail and iPhone apps allow you to select priority senders, setting off notifications for only those people. Set up your own to keep you focused without stressing that you could be missing an urgent message.

They don’t let others’ stress get to them

They don’t let others’ stress get to them
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Other people have different schedules and priorities to you, so if you receive an urgent-sounding email when you’re pressed for time, you have two choices: sacrifice your own productivity to switch tasks, or keep working with the nagging feeling that the sender is getting impatient. To satisfy the sender, rattle off a quick reply acknowledging his or her concerns, and give an estimate of when you’ll be able to address it fully. “People crave context. If you merely help them understand where their email sits within your workload, they can be surprisingly understanding,” writes Glei. “What’s more, expectation-setting emails can help you relax by allowing you to reassert control over your schedule and release any feeling of obligation about meeting someone else’s timetable.”

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