I know from personal experience that a flooded email inbox can seriously disrupt your writing process.
Author and software expert Jill Duffy just published Get Organized: How to Clean Up Your Messy Digital Life, so we asked her for some pointers about keeping email under control. She offered this advice:
The most important way I keep email at bay is to not believe that email is too important. The more we believe that email is “crucial,” than a life-changing opportunity might be buried somewhere in that inbox, or that we are letting down every single person who is awaiting a reply, the more email gets us. Being in control of email is so much about letting go. In the grand scheme of things, email isn’t that important. You don’t need to tend to it all day long. You can delete messages—you don’t have to save everything.
I honestly believe that disempowering email is the first lesson in curing our addiction to it. And it is addictive, just like any other substance that we want to give up but find ourselves going back to again and again and again. If you have so much email that you cannot possibly manage it all, even when you are deleting 60 percent or more of it (that’s how much I delete blindly, on average), then you need to hire an assistant who will help manage your email. But if you are an average person, you just have to figure out a few small changes that make a big difference.
Duffy concluded with this advice:
For example, unsubscribe from newsletters you don’t read, or only sign up for newsletters with a Web mail address that you reserve for that purpose. Then your newsletters and other “gray mail” will go into another account entirely and you won’t be tempted to look at it (or feel overwhelmed by it) when you’re processing everyday mail. Another simple trick: If you signed up for group emails that you don’t want, set up a filter that sends them to another folder, and then only check that folder once or twice a day. I’m also a fan of turning off email notifications. I don’t need them and I find them highly distracting and interrupting. Some people need them due to the nature of their jobs, but I don’t.