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How to master your e-mails and inbox: Expert tips

Ever feel like your emails are out of control? Or maybe you can't seem to put your phone down for fear of missing a message?

It may not feel like it, but it is possible to take control of your inbox once and for all through small shifts in your approach and attitude towards your emailing. Following a few simple principles will create email freedom, effective work and more time for creativity and leadership.

As part of our Life Meets Tech season this summer at Broadgate, we recently hosted an insightful lunchtime talk with Life & Leadership Coach, Chris Hardy, who shared his best and most useful principles with us. 

These principles are easily remembered using the handy acronym ‘PCRAR’ - (hint: pronounce it like an exotic parrot!)
P - Prioritise C - CreateR - Respond A - Archive - Recover


  • Always prioritise your inbox before taking any further action. Sit in silence for a few meditative moments before calmly and effectively sorting your entire inbox according to priority e.g. red, orange and green stars in Gmail.
  • Learn to take action on the things that are important but not necessarily urgent, they are often the actions that will move your business forwards significantly. 


  • Write your top priority emails offline before you have even opened your inbox. Chris uses Ommwriter to write in an undistracted space.
  • Give yourself at least 30 mins (two hours is more ideal) to be creative, to push your business forwards, to take the initiative, before opening and diving into your inbox.
  • Create first, respond second.


  • Make the distinction in your work between reacting, replying and responding. When you respond you take your time and your emailing is more effective. 
  • Responding has a sense of leadership about it. When you react you’re a victim of circumstances, leaders take control and respond with clarity.
  • Choose three times per day to open your inbox and dive in. Then make a point of having it closed for the rest of the working day.


  • Your inbox is not meant to be your store of emails. That is what archive or folders are for. Use the archive, send emails directly there. Chris uses the Todoist app to make a note of upcoming tasks that enables him to remove the email from his inbox.
  • Use folders, lables and filters creatively and intelligently to minimise traffic in your inbox and bring awareness to what is or isn't a priority.
  • Create specific agreements with anybody in your world who expects you to respond immediately to your emails. If you’re happy for that agreemtent to be explicit then create a separate filter for that person or group of people.


  • Probably the most important principle of all. It’s imperative you create time to recover from your inbox, your smartphone and your technology.
  • Have a digital sunset and a digital sunrise when all technology in your home goes off. Be prepared to commit powerfully to new healthy boundaries
  • NEVER have your phone in the bedroom and use airplane mode whenever possible
  • Create mini digital detoxes for you and your family or close friends where you have entire weekends away from all things inbox related

Chris is available for 1:1 coaching, find out more via his website or book him for your office or team with Work Well Being.  

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