Tips on Taming Your Inbox for the Summer

June 14, 2012

11:00 am

Summer is a time for scrolling through your playlist at a beach barbecue, not scrolling through unread messages in your inbox. Few startups know this better than AwayFind, which aims to get you out of your inbox during the summer (and the rest of the year, too).

AwayFind does that by alerting you to urgent messages, and today it announced 2 updates: a (beta) plugin for Outlook users and better meeting alerts. Now, if you have a meeting with someone today, you can be notified when they send you an email – even if that meeting is scheduled on a different calendar from your main one.

Whether or not you use AwayFind, here are some email productivity tips from CEO Jared Goralnick to get your inbox ready for bikini season:

Turn emails into to-do’s. One of the reasons we save emails is because they contain a task we can’t deal with immediately. But as Goralnick notes, an inbox is not a to-do list. You can’t usually change the subject line – so you can’t tell at a glance what the to-do actually is – and you can’t put emails in order of importance. Goralnick himself uses Google Tasks: you can turn an unread email into a task directly by clicking on More –> Add to Tasks.

Don’t overdo the folders. A long time ago, folders were the only way to save an email from disappearing into the cavernous pit of your inbox. But these days, most email clients have a search feature that makes folders less relevant. Organizing with tons of folders means time wasted scrolling or clicking around to find the right one. Goralnick recommends fewer folders, or just hitting the Archive button.

Get out of your inbox. “During the summer … you want to close the inbox and go outside or take your vacation,” says Goralnick. Amen. But we won’t stop worrying about emails piling up unless we recognize our huge misconception about email: the main problem isn’t how much we receive, he says, but how we allow it to direct our attention.

“That’s what kills you, it’s the interruptions … you completely lose your train of thought,” says Goralnick. “Email is the lowest-friction way of other people controlling your destiny. It’s the task list that just keeps getting added to with no consideration for you.”

But most of us have a choice. We can obsessively click over to our inbox every 5 minutes, when the (1) pops up or the alert beeps, or choose to check email only at certain times – when it fits into our schedule and won’t interrupt the task at hand. (This is harder for me as a journalist working remotely, because my job relies on email communication, but even I can apply the principle.)

Let’s say it together now: my inbox will not rule my destiny. Whew.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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