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3 Questions to Ask About Your Busy Inbox

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As I wrote about way back in 2013, who says you have to be busy before you can be a poor email correspondent?

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with email (and Twitter, too, for that matter). I love how they’ve allowed me to connect with folks, build friendships, and make things over the years, but I hate how email (and Twitter) can be such a draw for my attention and a distraction during my day.

It was in 2011 that I quit my day job to begin indie blogging for a living. Over the years as I’ve focused on writing, creating profitable websites, building courses, and working with a team…. Email and Twitter have consistenly been two of the greatest distractions I’ve had to deal with when it comes to doing focused, undistracted work.

Over the next few weeks, you can look forward to a series of reviews, guides, and stories that are all about email.

Such as an update to our pick for the best email app in the works.

We have a brand-new tool that we’ve been working on for a while that we can’t wait to share with you.

And, on September 29, we’ll be launching our next big course: Calm Inbox.

What is an Inbox, anyway?

A few weeks ago, as I was finalizing the content for the Calm Inbox course video lessons and preparing to record the videos, I was coming back to this basic definition of what an inbox is in the first place:

An inbox is something that collects incoming items that you need to deal with.

Break that down and you get the three components of an inbox:

  1. A collection of stuff
  2. That gets delivered to you
  3. That you have to deal with

With those three components in mind, count how many inboxes you have…

  • News and RSS feeds
  • Social media feeds (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, et al.)
  • Multiple email accounts (work, personal, etc.)
  • Physical mail
  • Project and task management software
  • Text messages
  • Slack
  • Customer support queue
  • Calendar invites
  • To-Do lists

When you consider just how many inboxes you actually need to check on a daily basis, it’s no wonder things can feel distracting at best and overwhelmingly burdensome at worst.

We will never be able to personally process, deal with, and read every single bit of information that comes our way. Every tweet; every email; every task; every message; every headline…. It’s too much!

That’s why I’ve settled with the fact that in order to focus on the most important things of my day, I’m okay with being a poor email correspondent at times; and I’m okay with missing out on the news; and I’m okay with being less active on social media.

Even still, my inboxes naturally overflow. This is why, about once a year, I like to take a look at all my various inboxes and clean them up a bit.

Strategies for Taming the Inbox Beast

The three most common reasons that our inboxes overflow are from a lack of: (1) curation, (2) automations, and (3) downstreams.

  • A lack of curation: Without curation, everything you’ve ever subscribed to, signed up for, or opted-in to is still getting sent your way.

  • A lack of automations:Without automations, rules, and systems, it means you are personally dealing with every single incoming item, even when you could use systems to manage most of it on your behalf.

  • A lack of a downstreams: Without downstreams and buckets, you don’t have anywhere to move those incoming items out of your inbox in order to delegate, defer, do, or save for later. Which means they end up clogging up the inbox and causing dual focus every time to get something done.

Below are three questions you can ask yourself that will help you in getting a more Calm Inbox system.

3 Questions to ask yourself about your inboxes:

  1. In order to curate, ask yourself: Is this inbox collecting the right things? Is there anything getting delivered to this inbox that I no longer want or need?

  2. In order to automate, ask yourself: Can I use technology to automatically deal with some of these things on my behalf?

  3. In order to set up downstreams, ask yourself: Are there more useful places I can keep these messages other than here in the inbox?

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Curation is one of the easiest and most rewarding places to start. If you can reduce the number of incoming messages that show up in your inboxes in the first place, then it reduces all other decisions you have to make. That can be liberating to your focus throughout the day.

A Calm Inbox will help you be more creative and productive, because it eliminates dual focus from your tools and saves you time throughout the day.

Consider taking a few minutes the next time you check your email or your social media timelines, and ask yourself if there’s anything in there that you no longer want or need. If so, then why not unsubscribe?