We are inundated with information and requests constantly. Especially when it comes to email. I remember once quite a few years ago I came back to work from vacation and I had well over 1000 emails in my inbox! It took my entire first day back to get through, and very quickly zapped the energy I had built up from my time off.
Enter inbox zero. It is truly one of my favorite things … and favorite productivity hacks.
Whenever possible I strive to achieve inbox zero … meaning when I wrap up my day I have ZERO emails in my email in box. I’ll be the first to admit that it does not happen every single day, but I do usually get there by Friday, and when I do have emails in my inbox at the end of the day it is usually 10 or less.
Keeping my inbox mostly empty feels so much less stressful to me. It also helps me to ensure that I am less likely to miss an important email as there is less “junk” to filter through.
Here are my tips to achieving inbox zero …
1) Start by getting rid of the junk! Go to the search bar in your email and search for the word “unsubscribe” in your inbox. This will give you all of the emails that you were sent as part of a marketing campaign, newsletter, sign up list, etc. Now you can quickly go through and unsubscribe from the ones that don’t interest you. In the future, when you receive these types of emails that you are not interested in before you hit delete, hit unsubscribe.
2) Next, keep the less important stuff out … or at lease more concise. Sign up for Unroll.me. It is a free service that will summarize all of the newsletters, marketing emails, etc that you do wish to receive into one single email each day. I get my email summary every morning, and I can quickly look through to see if there is anything I am interested in reading, then delete them all in one click.
3) As your emails come in apply the “do, delegate, delete” technique. If it is something you need to do, whenever possible do it right then (or apply step #4) or make a note in your to do list and delete it. If you don’t need to do it, and you can delegate it to someone on your team, forward it right then. If you can delete it, go for it! IMPORTANT: Resist the urge to open an email, know what needs to be done and think you will go back to it later. This is how our inboxes become clogged. If you don’t have time right now to address your email, then you shouldn’t be opening it. I have the same philosophy when it comes to papers and mail … only touch it one time. Instead of moving it from place to place, or opening and scrolling past the email again and again, address it the first time, then delete it.
4) When you have an email that you need to “do” something for but can’t do it right then (it requires more lengthy research, etc) move it to a “to do” folder. If I need to address the email in the next day or two, then I will keep it in my inbox. If it doesn’t need to be done quickly, then I move it to a folder called “to do”. That way it doesn’t clutter up my inbox, and I go through my to do folder typically once every day or so to complete tasks.
I spend a few minutes with these steps at the end of each day which helps me to not only clear out my inbox, but also clear my mind. Even if I don’t get to zero, I am usually only left with a small number of emails to address that I know to start my day with the next morning.
What are your favorite tips for controlling