Tame your inbox

by | May 16, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

There’s only one reason you should ever have to send this type of email.


Recently, I received the following message from a friend:
“Sorry it took me 2 weeks to get back to you. I’ve been buried in my inbox and just got to your email.”
We’ve all received this type of message many times in our professional careers. In fact, many of us have sent this type of email.

After weeks of extensive research, I’ve identified one circumstance that justifies being 2 weeks behind in your email: You’ve been kidnapped and held captive deep in the jungle without access to your phone/laptop.

This email insanity has got to stop. 

Your goal at the end of each day should be to have no more than 10 emails in your inbox.

That’s right, I said 10.

Before insisting that, “You don’t understand my job/industry/role/etc.”, hear me out. I promise you can do this by following a simple process:
Create a folder called “OLD” and fill it with any email in your inbox that’s more than 30 days old. (You’re ignoring these emails anyway; you might as well get them out of your daily eyesight. You can always set aside an hour every week to review this folder.)
In the “OLD” folder create another folder called Near Death and put any email in this folder that is more than 1 year old. (No one is sitting at their laptop daily wondering “I hope this is the day CJ responds to the email I sent in 2017!”
Set aside a Saturday morning to go through both folders reviewing each individual email. Decide which ones need to be saved. I’d file these in the appropriate folders (e.g. – Client, project, admin, etc.). Delete everything else.
Going forward, instead of wading in and out of your email all day long set aside times to review, respond, file, and delete emails. The end of the day should be the time to get it under ten. A few additional tips to decrease the overall email traffic to make this easier include:
    • Unsubscribe from every email newsletter you get (except mine).
    • Read emails one time and respond.
    • If you’re CC’d on an email that doesn’t require your input, delete it immediately.
    • If someone sends you an email that’s more than 100 words, tell them to give you a call (and then delete the email).
This advice is simple, but it can be extremely difficult to change behavior.

Don’t aim for perfection – just get a little better every day.


P.S. If you’re looking for a great resource on email, check out Cal Newport’s A World Without Email: Reimagining Work in an Age of Communication Overload

CJ McClanahan

Speaker | Advisor | Recovering Overachiever

CJ McClanahan



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