The bal­ance

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents - Shar­madean Reid Shar­madean Reid is the founder of WAH Nails and beau­tys­

David Weir, ath­lete. Plus Shar­madean Reid on how to win the bat­tle of the in­box

Q: H How can

I co con­quer my emails?

A: “In­box “zero” is a my myth­i­cal sta­tus that is merely m an­other way for tech­nol­ogy to re­duce us to anx­i­ety-rid­dled slaves to The Ma­chine. It’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to achieve, but it’s true that con­trol­ling your in­box (and not let­ting it con­trol you) is the se­cret to pro­duc­tiv­ity.

If you’re free­lance, you prob­a­bly have sev­eral email ad­dresses. Con­sol­i­date them into one in­box. I highly rec­om­mend an email ad­dress for shop­ping only.

A dif­fer­ent email ad­dress for work will save you weeks of delet­ing ir­rel­e­vant mes­sages. If you’ve had an email ad­dress since you were 12, as I have, it’s prob­a­bly 90% spam hell. Don’t at­tempt the sisyphean task of un­sub­scrib­ing from it all at once – just do a few at a time.

One of the most ef­fec­tive things I’ve done is to cre­ate mail­box fold­ers and use the VIP tool on my iPhone. I make cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als VIPs so their mes­sages al­ways sit at the top of my box. Any email from my ac­coun­tants, for ex­am­ple, goes into a spe­cial folder that I pri­ori­tise.

An­other game-changer was to make three fold­ers en­ti­tled To­day, Week and Month, with the rules based on the date the email was sent. Ev­ery day I try to com­plete the To­day box. If I miss it, ev­ery Sun­day night I work through the Week box, and so on. This stops anxious thoughts such as: “Did I re­ply to that email, or did I just for­mu­late the re­ply in my head?”

If I am able to re­spond to an email im­me­di­ately, I do. If I can’t be­cause I need more in­for­ma­tion, or want to write on my lap­top, I mark it as un­read, so it isn’t for­got­ten. Many peo­ple have a habit of not re­ply­ing to things they want to say no to, in the hope that the penny drops. Re­ply im­me­di­ately. It means peo­ple will stop both­er­ing you, and it’s also just good man­ners.

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