Our email inbox is kind of like another "system" we use every day. Stuff goes in, stuff goes out. At least it's supposed to go out. The reality is most inboxes get clogged up. And it gets worse the older you get. More email, and more straining processing it.
I call it irritable inbox. And it's painful.
You need an Inbox Cleansing.
Fortunately, I've got the prescription. And everything's available over the Internet.
WHAT'S A HEALTHY INBOX LOOK LIKE?
- Your email syncs perfectly on all your devices.
- 99% of your time is spent on email you care about.
- 1% or less of your time is spent on email you don't care about.
- AND you can choose to spend 50% less time trying to push email out.
Less pushing, more flow. Sound good? Here's how:
STEP 1: CHOOSE YOUR EMAIL PROVIDER CAREFULLY.
There are basically five major options for email today:
- Free email (e.g. Yahoo, Gmail, iCloud, AOL, etc.)
- Host your own email server
- A gazillion different "2nd-class" companies selling hosted email (Godaddy, Network Solutions, your PC consultant reselling it under a 'white label' aka Cpanel, etc.)
- Office 365 from Microsoft
- Google Apps for Work (Business-class gmail with your own domain name)
Free email: OK if you can tolerate subtle, aching pain over a long period of time.
- Spam = usually a problem
- Privacy? What privacy. Bring on the ads.
- Use your own domain name? Nope.
Host your own email server: Don't do it. There's not a single good reason to do this anymore.
Hosted email from 2nd-class companies: You're putting off the inevitable switch to Google or Microsoft and you'll trade any cost savings with current and future loss of time and productivity.
- They're rarely better than free email services, maybe with just less or no direct advertising.
- Almost no one offers a complete email+calendar+contacts solution other than reselling Office 365, which isn't nearly as good on an iPhone, Mail and Calendar as their competitor's product, Google Apps for Work.
Office 365: Unless you are totally dependent on Microsoft Exchange, you really don't need it.
- Office 365 goes down a lot more compared to Google, and even compared to iCloud.
- The back-end interface is written for tech nerds, and is both unintuitive and irritating. And who needs more irritation? A business owner or head of household ought to be able to manage their own email, users, preferences, etc., and not have to retain a Microsoft Certified tech.
- Poor search capabilities compared to using Google Apps and Spotlight on a Mac.
Google Apps for Work: Full disclosure: I switched to Google Apps about 8 years ago. And I haven't been disappointed.
- Google and Apple may be rivals, but Google works swimmingly with Mac and iPhone apps. I don't use Chrome, except for some housekeeping. I use Mac Mail, Calendar and Contacts, powered by Google on the back end.
- Amazing search capabilities.
- An admin dashboard designed for neophytes as well as hard-core tech nerds.
- The most useful server-side filters in the Observable Universe: This is the killer functionality that can give you back 500 hours per year.
- Works better than Office 365 for Mac users and Windows users with iPhones or Androids.
STEP 2: SET UP SERVER-SIDE FILTERS.
Next, set up your filters. I wrote an article on the best email feature ever a few years back. It still applies today. I estimate that I have an extra 500 hours per year back to my life because of it. You can too.
STEP 3: USE (OR GET) YOUR OWN DOMAIN NAME.
There are tons of reasons to do this. Basically, when you own your own domain name, you can keep your same email address no matter who you switch to for email today, and in the future. Keeping your email address means all you need is to move your historical email. No notifying people of a new email address, missing emails, getting phone calls asking why your old email is bouncing back, etc. More Switchability® is a good thing.
STEP 4: TUNE YOUR EMAIL APP.
There's a lot to this. Whether you're using Google, Office 365 or anyone else's email service, the application you're using is probably Mail or Outlook (or any variety of other things out there). Some of the young lads and lasses out there use Chrome, which is cool too. For any of these, knowing what all the settings and preferences do, and configuring them properly, can make a big difference in your productivity.
For example, did you know that if you have Google Apps (business gmail), you should turn off Junk Mail Filtering? If you don't, Apple's OS can get overaggressive and start throwing valid emails in spam, which you don't need because Google does an excellent job at it already. So if you're on Google Apps, turn it off.
STEP 5: KNOW WHY, WHEN AND HOW TO SWITCH EMAIL VENDORS.
Email feel out of control? Or backed-up? That's the 1st sign you need to switch email vendors.
Are you spending more than 5% of your time redundantly deleting the same kind of messages - things you don't want, spam, etc. - every day? That's the 2nd sign.
Has this been going on longer than a month without resolution? That's the final straw. And it's a sign that it's time to switch to email that works. There's a saying: "We only change when the pain gets too great." The problem with email is that it's a dull, lingering pain. By the time it's too great, you'll turn around and regret having wasted thousands of hours.
Being "too busy" with anything is not a good excuse to put this off. The last three migrations I performed for business owners required less than 90 minutes of the business owner's time over three calendar days, and they continued working while the migration happened in the background.
What a Clean Inbox feels like
It's hard to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but boy oh boy does it feel good. You'll sleep better at night. You'll have a better time at the dinner table with family. You may even feel inspired to go for a jog, do some yoga, or whatever floats your boat.
Getting email in and out every day is an awesome feeling. It's even better if you end each day with zero messages in your inbox. Processing email with tips and tricks like the ones that Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn and Michael Hyatt talk about is only half the solution. The first challenge is getting a platform that works well and can be automated without having to be a tech and without having to spend countless hours tweaking.
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