We must stop using our email inbox as a to do list. We cannot go on running our days from that list of dozens, nay, thousands of emails. It’s too painful and we all know it. Our email inbox makes a horrible to do list. Here’s why.
First, a list of emails offers us no perspective. It’s just a pile. We have no good way to extract from the pile what’s doable, what’s FYI, what’s to be delegated, what’s reference, and what’s garbage. We cannot access our higher levels of organization like the projects we are working on or our goals. And there is no way to scan a pile of emails to know what is the most compelling thing to do right now.
Second, a list of emails is biased and binding. Emails contain an overabundance of requests (demands?) from other people. They say pretty much nothing about our perspective or what we would choose to do. We can easily feel trapped.
We default to using our email inbox because it looks easier than building and nurturing an effectiveness system (and here and here). It so is not. Any investment we make in our system will pay back handsomely.
In your corner,
PS: Yes, we can try to work our email inbox using stars, labels, and sorting. Mostly this leads to lots of stars and lots of things marked “important.” We are usually disappointed.
PPS: Take the plunge. Build yourself an effectiveness system. You’ll love the freedom of it.