Organize your email to achieve Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero

Does checking your email inbox seem like a daunting task to you?  Is it just overwhelming?  Do you secretly worry about how big your email inbox would be when you return to work? If these questions strike you, then you definitely need to get your inbox down to zero. People tend to treat email as a big, master to­do list, when in fact this is a bad idea. Too many emails get lost in the mess and urgent problems are ignored and never dealt with. Getting to Inbox Zero is about making sure you are on top of things.

Let’s dive right into this and see how to cut down on your email quota.

Take up your email inbox with GTD mindset

We all have three types of emails in our inbox: those with related tasks for ourselves, those that need to be answered, those that should simply be ignored (such as advertising , newsletters, or emails not relevant for us) .

  • For the first and second types, take a principle from the GTD system and either deal with the task immediately if it takes less than 2 minutes, or decide on the next step you need to take and write it down on a piece of paper. This would be your master task list.
  • For the last type, delete and/or unsubscribe from the newsletters.

Reassess your inbox

It’s crucial to realize that the inbox is just the place where emails land, not where they stay. Our inboxes are crowded with mails of all sorts. A mixture of newly arrived emails, the ones you keep since  you haven’t replied to them yet, the ones where you are waiting for someone else’s response, the junk you ought to unsubscribe from and so on.

As a result every time you come across your inbox you are left baffled. Every once in a while we are asking our brains to remember which is which, and it’s difficult to track the major actions amongst all the other gibberish.

However, the good news is that in order to get clarity you don’t actually need to have everything completed instead you just have to have a control over what’s there.

So treat your inbox as a thing to process, not just to check – and aim to get the inbox cleared out to zero at least every few days.

Be ruthless with your inbox

Very few people actually realize that most of the emails we receive everyday are just noise. At this point the 800 to 20 rule comes handy. So for every 800 emails you receive, come down to the 20 that matter the most to you. The 800/20 rule is a great way for planning and organizing not just your mails but your daily tasks as well. The other 780 can be deleted, filed or answered very quickly.

A great hack that does miracles here is regularly sorting the emails on the screen according to different parameters. When sorted by date, remove anything more than 14 days old, and when you sort by subject, have an eye for those strings of conversation which you can file away or delete quickly. Also when you look by person, you’ll notice who your major inbox overload offenders are.

The trick is to look for opportunities to be ruthless with your inbox, not with the people in your inbox.

Set up really good filters

It wouldn’t be a magic if your inbox knew exactly where to store your incoming emails by itself. Filters are what you need here. If an email doesn’t need an immediate attention from your end, such as notifications from various social media channels, emails related to PR, forum comments, etc. It’s probably time to create an appropriately-named folder for them and set up a filter so that any new email from that kind or recipient will be automatically placed there.

This method has two advantages. Firstly it helps in keeping your inbox clean from clutter, and secondly it enables you to deal with all similar emails in batch, reducing the time you spend on them.

Conclusion

Once you give a shot to the measures listed above, you’ll realize that there’s really no need for an email to permanently settle in your inbox. Once you stop building an emotional connect, all emails are deleted, archived, or filed for later. It may sound too simple to be true, but it really is not. Getting to a zero inbox begins with changing your habits by setting yourself a daily goal, and sticking to it for 21 days. Soon it will become automatic and natural habit of yours.

Good Luck!

About the author

    Aymeric Gaurat-Apellii

    Aymeric Gaurat-Apellii is a software consultant, programmer, blogger and the Founder of Weekplan, a weekly planner web application. Read more by him here.

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