Inbox Zero your email in 3 easy steps.

Inbox Zero is all about spending less time in your inbox processing and answering emails, the term is also used wrongly to describe the situation when you have zero emails and you have cleared your inbox of unread mail,

so bare with me and let me explain why the difference is important, and then let me show you how to get to Inbox Zero with a 3 step approach to email management.

An empty inbox may well give you a good feeling, but it doesn’t last long before the flood gates open again and you get swamped by the next deluge of incoming mail, and like most people the daily battle of trawling through your emails to get an empty inbox is generally not a very productive way of spending your time.

I like the classification that; ‘an email can be classified as another person’s agenda for your time’,

now we can see why Inbox Zero should be about spending less time in your inbox because the real issue is not about zero emails its actually about productivity and time management.

With this in mind this article has been written to help you be more effective and give you 3 simple steps to help you to reach the elusive Inbox Zero.

Including my primary emails, my promotional emails and my social media alerts I like most other people receive hundreds of emails a day, if it wasn’t the processes, the rules, the hacks and the filters I use I would probably drown by lunchtime.

Without using the steps below and I managed to remain afloat for a while longer, some of my important emails, and conversations would be lost in masses of other emails, and some things would be missed or wouldn’t get done, so to prevent being unproductive you need a system.

If you feel drowned by email then follow the 3 principles below.

1. Make yourself some rules.

Only Look at your inbox once or twice a day.
Never leave your email client open, close it and concentrate on what you really need to do.
Open less emails, answer less emails and when you do write a reply write less if you can.
Look at your emails in bulk, and do this at a designated time, craft your answers and spend time where you need to and don’t rush the important stuff.
Decide to make a decision of what you need to do with each email and do it, don’t let it sit there festering.
Most emails only take a few seconds to respond so just do it.
Remember to proof read the important stuff before you send it.

2. Automate as much as you can.

Set up filters, that bypass your inbox for the stuff you need to keep but not necessarily have to read straight away, this process files away the things you need to keep so you can easily find it at a later date.

I have at least 50 sub-folders with emails that for example receipts or statements, these are all filed away automatically and bypass my inbox, some are even filed automatically as read, most of these emails are only looked at once a year when I am doing my accounts.

If you get Spam, spend a few seconds extra classifying those emails as spam and not simply deleting them, you will only get more in the future if you don’t do this.

I have also set up the following action folders and I mark my emails with special stars or tabs to encourage myself to take action on tasks.

Action folders are not about simple filling, action folders are about; filtering out what needs to be done, checking what has been done, and being able to access what you need quickly.
I use the four action folders below and regularly archive everything else in my inbox.

To Do (These are things you need to do or emails you need to write)
Awaiting Reply (These are emails you are awaiting a reply to)
Delegated (These are things you delegated)
Easy to Find (These are things you need to be able to find easily)

This method works for me because, the To Do folder is where I do what needs to be done and what makes the difference, I can keep a track of emails that need a response, for things have been delegated but still need to manage I can be regularly reminded to manage the people I have delegated to, whilst my easy to find folder makes it easy to find relevant documents that I need for that week like tickets ot flight information.

3. Get some help.

You can do this with someone human like a PA or a secretary who will process your inbox for you, not all of us have that luxury, so a far better method is to get help with add ons or apps and use technology to help you be more effective to win back your inbox.

I use Gmail which automatically split my emails into three groups Primary, Social and Promotional and this cuts my work by a third without even trying.

I get rid of old subscriptions, I do this automatically using a site called unroll.me which takes 2 minutes to analyse you inbox and let you unsubscribe en mass to any email subscriptions you may have inadvertently signed up to in the past.

I use a Gmail extension called Boomerang that keeps my important emails at the top of my inbox if i can process things straight away so, the issue here is that I don’t lose important emails them and that I can always see what needs to be done first.

I also use a great app on my iPhone called ‘Mailbox’ so that when commuting or sitting in unproductive meetings I have the option to quickly triage my inbox to get rid of anything that shouldn’t be there or is worth reading properly later.

Although I must admit that I spend even less time now having to use any other apps or extensions because my automation and ‘action folders’ help me do what needs to be done.

If you need to learn more about how you can take things a step further with Gmail the following article by Andreas Klinger is worth a read.

In Summary.

Don’t be a slave to other people demanding your time, don’t spend forever trawling through your inbox, get an email system, make some rules for yourself, get automated, get some help, do what needs to be done, do the things that make the difference and be more productive.

Using the 3 steps in this article will revolutionise your life, so share this article and tell others about this system, and let me know if you hit Inbox Zero.