Email is a communication medium. As my friend Dr. Frank Buck says in his presentations, you’d never take something out of your physical mailbox, look at it, then put it back in.
So why do we do this with email? Why do we let things linger there?
It comes down to not having PEEP: a Place for Everything and Everything in its Place.
We have tasks, decisions, junk, to-file, and all manner of other stuff in our inboxes, so we can never really get the empty.
But none of those emails belong in the inbox, and the more we perfect and use our PEEPs, the more we can actually attain the goal of an empty inbox.
But why should this be a goal? Don’t you have more important things to worry about?
The Power of Awareness
There’s tremendous value in being aware of everything you’re facing, even if it’s a bit overwhelming.
Pilots have all those gauges in the cockpit for a reason: as a leader—of a flight or a school—you need information to make good decisions, and you need to be able to access that information easily.
As a school administrator, you have a wide range of issues, opportunities, crises, and information to deal with, and the first step is making a triage decision: Does this warrant further attention? If so, what should I do with it?
I certainly don’t want to have to keep track of everything in my head, which is why I have tools like my calendar, to-do list, and Evernote database.
But I don’t want those tools to hide information I haven’t seen yet, and the single point at which I should initially see and process that information is my email inbox.
From there, I can dispatch it to an archive folder, Evernote, my calendar, my Remember the Milk to-do list, or wherever else it may need to go.
But for this system to work, I can’t have a backlog. I can’t let the emails pile up in my inbox. I need to get them out quickly, so I can easily deal with whatever comes in next.
The inbox is a bin for collecting emails so it’s efficient for me to process them later. (This is what the CrackBerry addicts of 5 years ago got wrong: they were trying to deal with every email as it arrived, instead of letting things pile up a bit for more efficient batch-processing.)
So the goal needs to be this: an empty inbox, daily. It may not be possible to keep it empty for long, but that’s OK. If you’ve gone through everything and moved it to the right place, you can be clear on what’s on your plate and better able to respond to what happens next.
More importantly, you can proceed with your important-but-not-urgent work, knowing what’s on your plate that you’re not dealing with.
Tomorrow, I’m offering a workshop called Taking Control of Your Inbox. If your email inbox is out of control, I hope you’ll consider joining me to learn how to make better use of this powerful tool for your leadership.
I’m offering something unusual that I think will be very powerful: Over-the-shoulder coaching by video. Show me how you deal with your email, and I’ll give you high-impact pointers that will reduce your email time and increase your effectiveness. It’s included with your registration and completely confidential.