Email Fun?

If you clear out your email inbox every day or week, no need to read further, you are awesome. If you are unhappy with or even frightened by your email, which is increasingly my reality, then this article is for you. 

I don't know when it happened exactly, but in the contest between satisfying, productive work and the email time-suck, my email is winning. This isn't a good thing. It may have started when I went from just one business account and one personal account, to three business accounts. Rather than put all these accounts in one platform, like Outlook (yes, you can do that), I keep them separate so I don't mix time. When I am handling personal mail, I do that.  

But the more accounts I have, the more opportunity to be attacked by people sending you emails that you may want, may not want, or may need occasionally like promotions. As the volume increases, I have taken shortcuts and put off handling all the emails until later and only handle the must-do emails. The drain on my decision-making muscle increases – decision fatigue sets in, and the size of my in-box mail grows. I am sure many of you can relate to this too. 

Also, it may seem like checking email on your phone will save time, but often you then have to handle the email twice. I  look at an email, decide to handle it later, and then have to read it again when I respond.   

I realized that this weight of email is pulling me down. Since I believe I could solve this for someone else, I can solve it for myself. This is what I am doing. 

First, the classic book by David Allen, Getting Things Done, is still my go to reference on managing work. There are some new tools out there to help the productivity process of "trash-read-action-file" that he uses, but that still is the basic order for handling communication workflow. What I want for my own process, however, is to make it as fun as possible so that it isn't a drag to win, but a game. I was interested to see if anyone has recommended ways to make email fun, and all I could find were ways to make email fun for other people to read. This tells me that I might not be the only one who finds email a drag. Can email be fun? I hope so. This is the first game, which I call Delete-o-rama. 

How to Play Delete-o-rama 

Here are ways I am making the delete and archive challenge fun. Before you start, write down the number of emails in any inbox so you can judge your progress. This is your starting score. Then, try one or both of these games for a week. 

1. Dice Roll – put a die by your desk. Every time you sit down, roll it, and then delete or archive the number of emails that appear on the dice. You can get maximum benefit from this if you delete all the emails from a specific sender at one time. Depending on your email client, you may need to search for the "from" or sort by sender. The new "Sweep" feature in Outlook is fantastic, as it makes it easy to either delete or archive email.  

2. Personal Delete Challenge – Think about the email you get and guess how many you get that you can unsubscribe, archive, or delete in a week. Write that number down so you see it. Then, every time you delete or eliminate an email, make a tally mark, and see how close your guess was. Don't skimp on your estimate – be bold!  

At the end of the week, compare your start in-box with your end in-box number(s) on any email accounts. How did you do? Does your email feel less weighty? If you need more incentive to be ruthless in eliminating these time wasters, do this math exercise. First, guess how many weekly emails and daily emails you receive that may not be that important. My estimate is that weekly emails have more content and require longer to read than daily emails. You can do your own math based on how long it takes you to process emails. My estimate is 20 seconds average for a weekly email and 15 seconds for a daily email. 

  • Weekly Emails: 52 weeks x 20 seconds per email = 1,040 seconds (17 minutes/year/email) 
  • Daily (M-F) Email: 260 weekdays x 15 seconds per email = 3,900 seconds (66 minutes/year/email) 

If you eliminate from your inbox just 10 weekly emails and 20 daily emails, you will save three days of time in just one year. In ten years, that is 30 business days.  How much is that time worth to you? 

Have fun winning your email battle! I am on my own Delete-o-rama mission, and my personal favorite is the dice roll. All of my in boxes are reduced, and one is current. I found once I started, it became fun to delete, sweep, and reduce the incoming mail traffic. The key message – don’t let email drive your stress up and your productivity down! Do something, and if you can make it fun, all the better.

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