If you are anything like me, your email inbox is the bane of your existence.  That is why, when I read Shawn Tuttle’s (a.k.a. “The Natural Professional“) weekly email broadcast this week,  it hit me over the head . . . well, actually, it zapped me in the head because she, as a superb organizer, has taught me how to zap my email. Check out Shawn’s guest post below. (Want more? Sign up for her Stop Struggling Toolkit. Did I mention it’s FREE!)

stop-struggling-toolkitHi there!

Following up on the last ToDo Manager lesson cliff-hanger, What about email?

Getting totally relevant to the lesson at hand:

Your email inbox is not on your Dashboard.

Why not?

Because working out of your email inbox is to be working by No Priority or Someone Else’s priorities.


It’s unfiltered.
It needs to be assessed for relevance to your life.
It brings incoming info that requires executive decision making skills to process.

It’s a communication method, just like the phone.
It’s a delivery method, just like snail mail.
In other words, it’s a means of receiving and sending information.

It is not a wise organizer of your projects that is dedicated to helping you stay on track with your goals and visions.

Here’s the crux of the issue as I see it:

We get a lot of email.
We are in denial that it takes time to deal with.
We don’t consider dealing with it a high enough priority to schedule.
And, we have a delusional desire for it to get done as a filler activity between the “important” work sessions.

We get frustrated when this doesn’t happen, OR, it ends up splooging all over our other experiences. (Checking email at line in the grocery store. Before/during/after dinner. While out with people.)

You want a life? Live it while you got it. Checking email at all hours of the day when you could be engaging with your surroundings is just not cool.

Besides, when skimming through your email, you tend to skip over making decisions, which prevents you from deleting messages. That’s why you end of reading emails multiple times and why your inbox is full o’crap.

Reality check: Just because you don’t schedule it, doesn’t mean you don’t have to put the time in.

SO what’re you supposed to do?

Many people receive and deliver the majority of their ToDos through email.

Thus, treat your inbox as a delivery system that is merely bringing you information to be distributed to the proper info storage tool.

You might be thinking, “some things are super quick to deal with–it’d take more time to enter it in my ToDo Manager than to just do it!”

Yay! Arriving at this question means we’re ready to dive into best practices with your email.

Best Practices (just four, easy peasy, practices!)

1. Setup email rules to divert lower priority newsletters and social media alerts to their own folders. (Go to them when you are designating time To Read or To spend 20 minutes on Social Media)

2. Schedule and/or create routine to Zap email (see super short Zap lesson below). Two examples:

1) Zap for 30 minutes after first high-priority work session + 30 minutes after lunch + 30 minutes at end of day

2) 10-11am, 4-5pm

3. Zapping your email is NOT the first thing you do in the morning. Your Important Work gets the honor of your first attention.

4. No Browsing. It’s been scientifically proven that it takes longer to do something multiple times than it does to do it once. Really.

Oh, what’s it mean to Zap?

Zapping is the process of assessing each email and dealing with it promptly. In the smallest of small nutshells:

1. One email at a time.

2. Assess what needs to happen with it.
–> 2 minutes or less, do it. Provide quick answer (without slacking on your communication skills), schedule event, add to address book, save in reference files, etc then delete or archive message.

–> more than 2 minutes, park in ToDo Manager, save reference materials and archive. (Remember in the last lesson I mentioned the quick add feature linking an email to a ToDo item? Brilliant!)

Either way, you’ve mined relevant info out of the message and have deleted or archived it.

Time to wrap it up, people.

The inbox has a wild combination of
high/low priorities,
info out of context, and
distractions galore.

If you acknowledge your inbox as a collection point, and allow time to Zap it,
then you’ll keep up on the timely and important info showing up there.

Until then, XO


One action to take today: Schedule Zapping time or commit to Zapping in your daily routine.

Ruth Schwartz

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .