How I Do Email

gmailFive years ago I took a two-week vacation and came home to 1,500 email messages. I spent 20 hours clearing the backlog and realized that something had to change.

My system will give me an extra 250 hours per annum – for the rest of my life.

If you’ve ever wondered where you could find-the-time then email is likely your greatest source of increased productivity.


#1 – I started by switching to gmail

#2 – When an email arrives I have four choices:

  • Delete
  • Deal with it
  • Unsubscribe
  • Action

Delete – end the thread and do the world a favor

Deal with it – anything in your life that takes two minutes, or less, to complete… Do It Now – remember you’ve already interrupted yourself by checking email

Unsubscribe – this is a pain in the ass when you start – there’s so much coming… however, after five years I average less than one unsubscription per day.

Action – for items that require clear thought, or take more than two minutes, move to your “action” folder

#3 – Once a week, go top to bottom in your action folder

  • Give people what they need – no more
  • If It takes more than four lines then be sure to save your work – FAQs, blogs, article ideas
  • You have a limited number of keystrokes in your life, don’t waste them, or someone else’s
  • Any message that was in the action folder the last time you went through, make an appointment in your calendar to deal with it and delete. If you blow off the appointment then it wasn’t important

Learn to use filters so high volume senders can be automatically sorted to a directory and dealt with as a batch.

Teach your high volume senders to reduce their emails to a single message that you can deal with efficiently.

One-on-one email interaction should be priced at your highest rate per hour. Remember that it is your lowest reach method of communication – you’re only reaching one person, max.

#4 – Learn gMail HOT KEYS – worth another 10-25 hours a year

  • J – forward to next message
  • K – back to previous message
  • Y – remove current label
  • R – reply to sender
  • A – reply all
  • O – open
  • [tab] return – send

It’s worth the pain to change.