At signOver the past week or so I’ve managed to reduce the time I spend looking at email each day from around 2 hours to 30 minutes. It should come down even further than that, but I’m happy with the progress.

One of the changes that I’ve implemented has been an idea that’s worked well in other areas – only touching each email once (during the processing stage).

Only touch it once

The idea here is simple : each time you open an email, decide what to do with it and act upon that immediately. This doesn’t entail replying to each message on the spot; simply filing it, marking it or deleting it as appropriate.

As Gmail is my email tool of choice, I use the filters to label most messages as they come in. If an email is worth keeping, but doesn’t hold any urgency, I can send it to the archives quickly; knowing that it’s already labelled and easy to find.

If an item is deemed ripe for deletion, it is deleted immediately. The inbox is not the place for sentimentality.

Messages that are awaiting a response are labelled appropriately and left in the inbox. As I simply from from the top message to the bottom, there is no chance of accidentally re-opening one of these messages.

Overall this process works extremely well. Next target – 10 minutes per day.