Here’s a quick and easy Christmas present you can give yourself right now that won’t cost a penny – yet it’s guaranteed to save hours of stress and worry.
Empty your email in-box.
Clear out every message lurking in that dark, shadowy space. Every. Single. One.
Easier said than done, of course. Our in-boxes become repositories for jokes of the day, useful tips, articles we intend to read some day, lunch invitations, Bar dues notices, Facebook updates, calendar items, lunch cancellations, get-rich schemes, adorable photos of babies we don’t even know, spam, CLE seminar offers, adorable videos of kittens playing ping pong, hair restoration products, more spam, urgent cries for help from deposed princes.
Not to mention the occasional message that actually pertains to a case or client and has real importance.
Or the dozens we’ve never gotten around to opening – their bold fonts practically screaming, Read Me! Please! – because we know they contain bad news we can’t bear to face. At least not right now.
Besides, if the Mayans are right, we won’t have to worry about unanswered messages and past-due assignments much longer.
But if the Mayans are wrong and the New Year arrives as scheduled, we can do ourselves a big favor by greeting it with a squeaky clean email in-box.
The goal is to achieve what is known in the time management/productivity world as “in-box zero.”
Business efficiency consultant Daniel Gold posted a helpful article on the law blog Attorney at Work on how to reach “in-box zero” with no fuss or muss.
Gold’s technique: use one of the following five categories to dispose of every email as soon as it is received:
1. Do it now. If a task can be completed in two minutes or less, do it right then. Don’t wait. Leaving it to languish takes up what Gold calls “psychic RAM.”
2. Defer it. Calendar all action dates. Transfer the substance of the message to a “pending matters” file or to-do list.
3. Delegate it. Forward the message to the appropriate recipient or assign the task to someone else. Either way, get it out of your in-box.
4. Delete it. This option applies to messages from Nigerian princes and ping pong playing kittens.
5. Incubate it. Create an archive folder and store the message there.
There. You’ve done it. In five easy steps you’ve emptied your in-box and uncluttered your life.
Now go enjoy the holidays.
Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney licensed in North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. His in-box is empty. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 919-619-2441.