How to handle your e-mails so they don’t handle you

Getting to Inbox zero

I felt despondent for many years about having a congested e-mail inbox. Congested isn’t the word for it. Several thousand e-mails had accumulated over the years as I postponed reading or taking action on many of them. As a result, hundreds of e-mails went unread.

I was motivated several months ago to clean up my act because I feared being hacked. So I initiated “operation inbox wipeout” then and there. Although getting to inbox zero took over an hour, it was time well spent. I felt wonderful viewing a clean inbox for the first time in years.

What I can do so can you. After getting to inbox zero with “operation wipeout,” I use a half-dozed methods each day to keep it clean.

  1. I assign my self two specific times during the day to handle e-mails. My to do list reads: “e-mail batch.” This is one way to handle your e-mails so they don’t handle you. A former career counseling colleague has another way—Dan attends to his batch at home after 6 pm. Do whatever works. But do something daily.
  2. Respond to urgent e-mails first.
  3. Then respond to emails you can handle in two minutes or less.
  4. While writing, get right to the point and avoid unnecessary words and phrases like “Hi Joey,” “don’t hesitate to get back to me with any questions,” “I hope you’re well,” and “I think.”
  5. Weed the garden. Get rid of junk e-mail by passing them up for now or deleting them. Favor the second choice. A good time for weeding is while waiting in line, commuting, or deciding to weed instead of checking your Facebook or Twitter account.
  6. Cut down and eliminate many email exchanges by not asking open-ended questions.

You can begin right now to handle your e-mails so they don’t handle you by applying the six steps just mentioned. Then, learn much more about how to write convincing e-mails, resumes, cover letters, and memos in Chapter Four of my book Your One-Minute Job Finding Coach.

Copyright ©2015 by Ransom (Randy) Place


About the Author

RANDY PLACE IS A JOB-FINDING and executive coach, writer on career topics, broadcaster, and host of For twenty-three years, he helped thousands of employees who had been let go from JPMorgan Chase find jobs. And he coached executives at CBS Television, Pitney Bowes, and major outplacement firms in New York on job-finding techniques, communications skills, and selling strategies. An accomplished seminar leader and speaker, Randy has designed and presented workshops on interviewing, telephoning techniques, job-search writing, and sales training nationwide. Randy's groundbreaking nationally syndicated radio series, Your Career Service, has been heard on over two hundred radio stations across the United States. And his articles on career topics have appeared in the Wall Street Journal's National Business Employment Weekly. A former broadcast journalist in New York, he has also been a commercial spokesperson for an array of national and regional advertisers. In addition, Randy was a sales executive at NBC Radio and the New York City sales manager for syndication at Wolper Productions. He holds a Bachelor's in Sociology and Broadcasting from Syracuse University, and a Master's in Journalism from New York University.