An inbox-zero devotee's guide to getting your email under control

Start fresh, establish rules

Once email inboxes reach a critical mass, they become difficult to manage, but one inbox-zero expert shares a few tips to clean up the mess and reduce stress.

Responding to a reader's request for help in Inside Higher Ed, Kerry Ann Rockquemore, president of the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, divulges her strategies for keeping her inbox in order.

1. Declare "email bankruptcy" and delete all of your messages from the past academic year. This way you start with a clean, manageable slate. If that feels too extreme, move all of those emails to a folder.

2. Limit the emails you receive by unsubscribing from social media notifications and Listservs. Create filters for Listservs you cannot remove yourself from—such as university ones. Unroll.me is a digital tool that helps with this, Rockquemore writes. It allows you to unsubscribe from hundreds of emails at once and condenses whatever lists you remain on into a single daily message.

3. Create 'rapid-response' rules to determine when to "delete, delegate, or do," Rockquemore writes. Establish outlines for when to delete messages without responding, delegate the request to another person, and what to do—now or later.

4. Make response templates for common requests. Many email systems enable you to create and save email templates which can then be used repeatedly. Having a few pre-written responses to common requests or questions will save you from typing the same message over and over again.

5. Schedule two email-checking times per day and put them in your calendar. This will help you cut down on checking email repeatedly throughout the day, freeing you up to complete other tasks. It also conditions others not to expect replies right away (Rockquemore, Inside Higher Ed, 10/7).

Also see: Which emails students read—and which ones they ignore


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