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Adopt GTD Methodology in Email

think of every email you get as either something you need to take action on, track, or refer to later. 

Every time you open a conversation, decide right away what to do with it. Don’t postpone and come back to it. You touch it once and move on.

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Power Up Your Email with Plugins

Some examples:

  • Undo Send: for when you accidentally press the send button.
  • Canned Responses: create a template that you can reuse with canned responses.
  • Send and Archive: Automatically archive an email after replying to it using the send and archive button.

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Understand the Different Types of Emails

All your emails fit into one of the following 6 categories:

  • Respond today: reply immediately if urgent, at the end of the workday if important
  • Respond later: schedule time in the calendar in the future to reply
  • Optional response: no need to respond, but it would be nice of you to
  • Not important and no need to reply: archive or delete
  • Read later: file into a specific folder and read in your spare time (e.g. newsletters and reports)
  • Filling: file into a specific folder (e.g. purchase receipts, copies of important documents, travel arrangements).

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Inbox Zero in 10 Minutes

  1. Create a folder in your email inbox named “sort”.
  2. Pick a topic that describes several of your unread messages.
  3. Move all messages related to that topic into the sort folder.
  4. Go into the folder and process the messages until the folder is empty.
  5. Return to your inbox and loop back to Step 2 with another topic. Repeat until the inbox is empty.

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Create an Email Productivity System

There’s no “definitive” system. The best framework is the one that works for you. Ideally, it should model your work style, supporting the way you work. Bonus points if it’s low-maintenance, fast to set up, and adaptable as your work changes.

Some people like to use folders with specific actions (do, delegate, reply), while others prefer the deadline-driven approach (today, tomorrow, next week).

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Practice Good Email Etiquette

  • Keep it short.
  • Make it scannable: use short paragraphs and formatting to make sure your content is read.
  • Know what you want to communicate.
  • Bold the important.
  • Keep conversations small: only include the people who need to be a part of the discussion
  • Forwarding code of conduct: never forward along a massive email chain without a few bullet points as a quick summary at the top explaining why you’re sending it and action items you need from the other person.

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Schedule Email Time

Treat checking emails as you would any other tasks: a to-do. Schedule specific times in your calendar to process email. And reduce the times you check email to 2 per day: one in the late morning and another in the late evening.

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Receive Fewer Emails

  • Unsubscribe: from anything you don’t need, such as newsletters, groups, mailing lists, and notifications. 
  • Send fewer emails: to get less email, send less. 
  • Be succinct: Reply to every email in three sentences or less
  • Respond with statements: don’t reply “Maybe 10 or 11 am, what do you think?” to schedule a meeting time, be assertive “10 am.”
  • Get Personal: sometimes it’s easier to call or talk face-to-face. 

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Use Automatic Responses

Train other people to respect your productivity, work, and time by using an automatic response. Long-term sustainable email productivity is about selective ignorance.

Let people know you’re checking emails less often in order to be more productive.

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