If I have achieved anything with the content published here over the past couple of months, I hope that at the very least I have done this: convince you, generally, why primility is a useful mindset to understand and strive toward.
Useful because it will guide you toward achieving anything you love and are capable of.
For primility to truly be world-changing, there needs to be more than just concepts and stories to illustrate them. You need tools that impact your daily life. And I’m going to start providing them.
Primility Guides. That’s what they will be called.
You will see many Primility Guides in the coming weeks, months, and years, each one focused on how to use a balance of pride and humility to master a particular skill.
This post marks Part 1 of the first Primility Guide, and it is focused on email … on how to tame your inbox beast.
But before I jump into teaching you the how, we need to do as Simon says and start with the why.
What could you achieve with more time?
What could you do with an extra five minutes per day? With an extra 10 minutes per day?
How about with an extra 30 minutes or even an extra hour every day?
Let your mind run wild for a few minutes.
You could get more work done … you could take the dog for an extra walk … you could spend extra time with your kids … you could get a workout in … you could read … you could write.
You could do anything.
And when you start adding those extra anythings up day after day, month after month, year after year … they compound into something fantastic.
Maybe it’s a promotion and more money … maybe you’ve turned a side project into a full-time job … maybe your connection with your kids is tenfold better … maybe you’re in better shape and healthier … maybe you’re smarter … maybe you’re wiser. Maybe you’re all of these things! And more!
This is no exaggeration.
It’s real … and it’s spectacular.
Mastering email gives you back your time
Time is our most scarce resource. Once we spend it, we never get it back. We constantly have less of it, meaning the relative importance of spending it wisely increases with every passing second.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
And there is one place that I bet every single one of us spends more time every day than we’d like to: our inboxes. (See how you nodded when you read that?)
Our inboxes are attention-snappers and time-guzzlers. They can paralyze us and sterilize us when we need to be at our most productive. But very few of us can actually get away from them for good. They are evil, but a necessary evil.
This is why mastering our inboxes — so that they are not the masters of us — should be a priority for everyone. Especially you.
Think back to all of those wonderful things you became in your mind just a few moments ago — when you were imagining what you could do with all of that extra time. You’re worth all of them. You deserve to achieve all that you day-dreamt up.
Take pride in that.
You deserve that extra time because you’ll do something worthwhile with it.
Then simply humble yourself to learn from proven experts and implement what you learn … and your primility will have you on the path toward achieving the email mastery you’re capable of, need, and deserve.
Here is step one when it comes to email mastery …
Empty your inbox every day
I listen to podcasts because sometimes they change my life.
Several months ago, this episode of Michael Hyatt’s podcast did just that. So Mr. Hyatt deserves a direct and deferential hat tip because what you are about to read are his ideas, not mine.
They just feel like mine to me because I adopted them and quickly instituted them as part of my daily routine … which changed everything.
Here is Mr. Hyatt’s basic email philosophy: empty your inbox every day.
Sounds crazy, right? It sure did to me. “How the hell am I going to do that,” I thought to myself at first. “I basically use my inbox as my to-do list.”
But therein lies the problem.
By using my inbox as my to-do list, it necessitated having my inbox open all the time. This made me perpetually susceptible to focus-breaking interruptions anytime a new email came in. How can anyone get any important work done under such conditions?
I couldn’t. You probably can’t either.
So we need to stop using our inboxes as our to-do lists. This becomes much easier when we have another to-do list solution. (I do … and I’m going to share that with you next week in Part 3 of the Primility Guide to Email Mastery.)
But first, we need a process that allows us to efficiently view and organize the many messages we get each day.
Here is that process …
The 4 D’s of email mastery
As Mr. Hyatt instructs, you can take one of four actions with every single email that you receive:
1. DO it.
Meaning: right now.
This is what we should do with every email for which the time required to complete the requested action is less than 2-3 minutes … DO it right away.
That way the email is gone, never to be heard from again. Not only does this immediately declutter our inboxes, it saves us the time of having to read and comprehend the email again later. We just did that — so why waste that time we just spent?
Granted, some requested actions cannot be performed right away. This is where the other D’s come in.
2. DELEGATE it.
Perhaps someone else is more qualified to complete the requested action. Great! Forward the email along to that person, with any necessary instructions.
Now it’s gone. Your inbox is decluttered. Sweet!
But what if you can’t delegate it, yet it will take too long to complete immediately? Easy …
3. DEFER it.
This is where you add it to your to-do list. (Again, more on this process in Part 3 next week.)
But make sure you take these two actions when deferring an email:
- Give it a due date, otherwise you’ll forget about it and never do it.
- Transfer any important notes to your to-do list application, so that you can file the email and don’t have to refer to it again.
If you don’t make both of these steps a part of your deferring process, you’ll just cause more work for yourself in the future — which wastes time and defeats the purpose.
And if you cannot do it, delegate it, or defer it …
4. DELETE it (or file it).
Was this email not meant for you? Is it SPAM? Is it an off-color joke from your college friend that caused you to chuckle, but that you’d prefer never be seen by another living soul? Then just delete the email.
Problem solved. Inbox decluttered. Time saved. Life achievements unlocked!
For all other emails, just file them. Archive them. That way they are just a search away should you ever need to reference them for some purpose you cannot possibly foresee right now.
And don’t use any complicated categories or folders. As Mr. Hyatt instructs, file them all in one folder. The search function of your email client will be good enough to help you locate it should you ever need to.
See how simple this is?
That’s it. 4 D’s to an empty inbox every day. Literally every single email you ever get can be processed using one of them.
Make this process a part of your daily routine when you check email, and you can zero out your inbox every single day … which is the first step toward email mastery.
The second step, which we’ll discuss in Part 2, is becoming comfortable batch-processing your emails only a few times each day. This is what allows you to have focused periods of work when you can be more efficient and productive. You’re able to do more in less time.
But, to be able to do so with peace of mind requires a specific tool I use that has revolutionized how I work. I can’t wait to share this secret with you.
The third step, which we’ll discuss in Part 3, is having a to-do process that you’re confident in. This allows you to avoid using email for to-do management. And I have a great tool to recommend of this as well.
In the meantime, any questions or comments about Part 1?
- Are you confident in your ability to zero-out your inbox every day?
- Do the 4 D’s make sense in both concept and practice?
- Or do you have another method for achieving Inbox Zero on a daily basis?
The comment section awaits your input …