Email may be a fabulously convenient tool that’s revolutionized how entrepreneurs run their businesses, but let’s be honest, these days it’s also a source of torment. The unceasing flood into your inbox robs you of concentration, loads you down with unread email guilt and sucks away your personal time. So what’s to be done if despite your best intentions you’ve landed in email hell?
The folks at SaneBox have created a technical solution. It’s a product much like a pumped up Gmail priority inbox that sorts the urgent from the unimportant and keeps time-critical messages at the top of your inbox.
But according to SaneBox VP Dmitri Leonov, getting a handle on your inbox isn’t just a matter of employing the right tools; it’s also key to examine your own beliefs and behavior towards the torrent of messages in your life. In short, if you’re in email hell, you are probably an email sinner.
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What does that mean? Via email, Leonov laid out his religious metaphor for the email behaviors that are making you miserable. Behold his seven deadly sins of email:
Denying that you’re a sinner. This is the biggest sin of all. As you’re staring at your overflowing inbox, admit that something went terribly wrong, and you won’t be able to handle the daily barrage of emails. Now that you’re no longer in denial, you can do something about it.
Gluttony: getting caught up in email and losing sight of priorities. Determine how much time you want to spend in your inbox on a given day, and don’t exceed it. Email is just one part of work. It’s also reactive by nature. Unless you’re doing customer support, you can’t succeed when you’re reactive.
Wrath: punishing your neighbor by wasting their time. By not following the rules set out in the Email Charter, you’re seriously mistreating your friends and coworkers. It’s a long list of ten very specific things, and you should do all of them. Always remember the Golden Rule of Email: the more email you send, the more you get back. (We found a correlation between emails sent and emails received in our own data).
No pride: punishing yourself by wasting your time. Don’t treat every email like it deserves your attention. Not all email deserves your attention. Some emails need to be read and responded to right away. Some can wait. Others archived or deleted in bulk.
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Greed: signing up for stuff you don’t need. Stop signing up for newsletters you’re never going to read. Less is more.
Sloth: being lazy and not following Inbox Zero rules. Don’t open the same email twice. Delete (or archive), Delegate (forward), Respond,Defer or Do are the only possible outcomes. Anything else wastes time. This could be the hardest of the sins to overcome – it requires lots of discipline and can seem impossible at first. You must power through it.
Envy: when a friend tweets “Inbox Zero!” don’t send him an email. That’s just mean, and you deserve to be in email hell!
How many of these sins are you guilty of?
Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.
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