ATD Blog

ICE 2012 Sales Enablement Zone Blog Series 2/28

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tired of dreading your inbox? TAME your inbox once and for all (Part 1)

By Jeannie Sullivan & Carson Tate

Email volume is growing at a rate of 66% per year. (E-Policy Institute)

The average US worker spends 41% of their work day in their inbox (Rescue Time).

It is no wonder we dread our inbox. The information never stops flowing in and we spend almost half of our day dealing with it. Email interruptions can make you less productive, effective and creative.

It is time to retake control, halt the incessant interruption assault and TAME your inbox once and for all.

T Take back control!

At some point in time, we all assumed that we must start our day with email. WRONG! You do not have to start your day in your inbox. What would happen if you started your day on your highest value task? For example, prepare a proposal for a new client, draft your e-newsletter, call your top client and thank them. What would happen to your productivity, effectiveness and sense of control? I am giving you permission (in case you feel like you need permission which you do not) to stop starting your day with email.

Many of our corporate climates dictate that you spend (read live) your day in your email inbox. Take back control. Check email at regular intervals morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon and then get out of email. Checking email every five minutes is a productivity drain and an ineffective use of your most valuable commodity time.


Remember, we teach people how to treat us. So take back control of your inbox and establish some new email protocols and habits.

A Act on your email messages

A colleague of mine, Barbara Hemphill, defines clutter as postponed decisions. All of the emails lurking in your inbox are clutter. They are clutter because we have not decided what to do with them.

We read our emails while driving (scary!), walking, waiting in line and then come back to our offices and re-read them.

Stop wasting your precious time and act on an email.

  • Read it, decide what you need to do with it and act on it.
  • If it is a task that requires more than a couple of minutes to complete, move it to your task list.
  • If you do not want to move the email to the task list, open it, highlight the subject line and change the subject line to state your next action step.
  • If it is a task that needs to be completed on a specific day and time, move it to your calendar.

Heed the advice of Nike and Just Do It! Act on your email messages.
M Make the subject line of your emails specific


I dont know about you, but I dont know what re:re and fwd:fwd mean. Have you ever received one of these emails? It is frustrating isnt it. You do not know what the email is about, what you need to do and why you are receiving the email.

Make the subject line of your emails specific. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Change the subject line to reflect the current topic or subject of the email. The subject line of the email should tell me the subject or topic of the email that I am about to read.
  • Use standard subject lines:
  • No Action Required
  • Action Required Date
  • FYI then specifically tell the recipient EXACTLY what you want them to know
  • Reply by Date
  • NRN No Reply Needed
  • EOM End of Message

E Effectively Use Outlooks Tools

Outlook can be a productivity powerhouse when properly leveraged. Outlook enables you to write rules to send messages to specific folders, color code incoming messages and create automatic tracking systems.

Do you want to be able to quickly identify time sensitive messages color code them by sender or subject. Do you want to prevent all of your Amazon receipts from crowding your inbox? Write a rule and automatically send all Amazon receipts to your Amazon receipt folder.

Effectively use Outlooks tools and save hours of productive time every day.

Your time is your most valuable commodity. 41% of your day spent processing emails is probably NOT the best use of your time. It is time to retake control, halt the incessant interruption assault and TAME your inbox once and for all. We hope you will download the TAME Your Inbox Quick Reference Guide and take action today.

If you'd like more, please consider attending ASTD 2013

About the Author

Mike was ASTD’s Sales Enablement Community of Practice Manager. In this role he oversaw the development of resources, content, and solutions that help sales organizations become world-class. Prior to joining ASTD, Mike enjoyed a successful 15 year sales career with roles such as sales manager, sales operations director, and sales effectiveness program manager. Mike has coached and mentored many sales professionals, and developed and implemented industry leading sales improvement initiatives. Mike received a Bachelor of Science in Business Management degree from Virginia Tech and an MBA from Shenandoah University where he graduated with honors. Formerly the president of Shenandoah’s Business Alumni Club, Mike currently serves as 2nd VP on their Alumni Board of Directors.

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