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Socks in a Box: A new relationship with email

I don’t do socks.

I mean, I wear socks. So do my children.

I wash and dry them, but I do not match, fold, or put them away.

This means that in our basement, next to the dryer, there is an old box filled with socks.

About once a week, I mandate what I call a "sock matching party" and direct the children to match, fold, and carry the foot-coverers upstairs and put them away. A tactic some see as procrastination (are you cringing?) has greatly improved my relationship with laundry.

Emails are the socks in your communication game.

Keeping them in a box until needed: game changer.

Pick a time – once a day maybe – where you have an email checking party. Set aside an hour. Read and match each one with the kind of attention it needs. Put it where it belongs:

DO the important stuff that only you can do. Flag it or hold space for it on your calendar.

DELEGATE the important stuff that someone else can do. Press that forward button.

DIGEST the informational material that doesn't require a response.

DELETE the unimportant.

DELAY what you're not sure about. It's OK to give it 24 hours before a response.

*Pro tip: Let folks know that you’re trying a new email management system. If they’re used to you replying within 30 seconds and it now takes 3 hours, give them a heads up so they don’t send a search party (or worse, text you a thousand times).

When I practice what I preach, email takes about 60 minutes, instead of stealing 20-30 minutes from every hour of my day. And it stays caught up.

Email habits are tough to break. We tell ourselves we need to be in it. That we are procrastinating if we close it out. That others will think we're unresponsive. An alternate story is: maybe it'll delight everyone else in our orbit to chill for a bit on what has become one of our most unproductive distractions.

Putting boundaries around when and how you use email can revolutionize your focus and productivity. Don’t default. Decide what kind of relationship you want with your inbox.


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