You May Go on Vacation, but Your Email Doesn't

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Going back to work after vacation is often a let down. On top of that, there’s all the work that’s been waiting for you and the dreaded email inbox that, if each message were printed out, would bury your office knee deep in paper.

A very concise and easy to use method for cutting that inbox down to size is provided in a post from one of the David Allen Co. blogs. Here’s Kelly’s first step:

First, I knew the morning I got back to work I’d have about 6x more input than normal, so I blocked that extra time on my calendar to give myself the time I would need to get it processed. I think this is essential. There is no way a week of email can be processed in the same time I normally allow.

There are two important points here. One is that email takes a lot of time to go through if you’re actually going to do something about the messages and not just scan through them.

Two is that it’s really important to set aside time to deal with email (or any task that doesn’t seem urgent). If you don’t and you just throw yourself into catching up on everything at once, you relegate handling emails to a minute here and a minute there, while you’re checking for new emails. Or it all goes into a "pending" folder to be looked at when you catch up on everything else.

I find it helpful to sort my inbox by sender, topic or thread. That way I can easily identify emails that contain old information, answered questions and preliminary plans that I can safely delete.