Getting to “zero inbox” may seem like a dream (or a nightmare) but it is not that hard and scary. Every given working day I finish with zero messages in my inbox.
That means there is no unread and unanswered email in my inbox. To get to zero inbox all you need to do is to follow these simple rules.
5 things to get you to zero inbox
Always remember there are only 5 things you should do with email:
If it is something fast and you can reply within a minute or two then respond immediately.
For me and my communication style most of emails are in this category 🙂 I tend to handle these emails on my smartphone during “empty” time – waiting for something/somebody, travel, coming few minutes early etc.
Forwarding email and adding a sentence or two takes you less than 30 sec and gets email out of your inbox and work out of your to-do list. Of course you want to make sure you good people to forward your emails to.
Gmail is doing great job of keeping spam away and all subscriptions, newsletters, promotions in folders out of my inbox so I am doing less and less of deleting. But when you do, be ruthless.
You can’t decide? Drag and drop to archive folder. Archive is kind of “thrash light” – if you don’t come back to it in long time, feel free and safe to delete it.
v) schedule for later
Is it important and requires more work than couple minutes? Schedule it, put it in your calendar or on to-do list. I tend to mark it with “star” in Gmail and then on scheduled time I go back to all “starred” emails – 2-3 times a week.
No, I did not forget “mark as unread” – this is not an option. To get to “zero inbox” you must handle each email only once! Coming back to it means procrastination and waste of time for re-reading and re-focusing.
Do Your Emails in Blocks
I have 2 max 3 email blocks a day. Each for like 30min. Good time is around 10am when my most important things from To-Do list are done and then after lunch.
I don’t work on emails at home. No laptop, no smartphone.
Especially not in front of my son (2,5yrs) whom I don’t want to remember me as somebody staring at the small screen all the time.
Last block for email shouldn’t be before you head home. Have it at least one hour prior to it and then don’t go back to email. You will still have time to do something about things you will find there and don’t go home thinking about it.
What You Send is What You Get
Getting to zero inbox is also much better if you don’t send unnecessary emails. The more emails you send, the more emails you receive.
On contrary most work is being done by talking to people, thinking or writing.
Writing and reading emails doesn’t work. It is only a tool for you to get things done.