Inbox Zero? My Inbox has three Zeros!
Such a buzzword – Inbox Zero. It’s impossible to achieve, right? Well, that depends on you. That depends if you believe you deserve an Inbox Zero so you can dedicate your precious time to other tasks.
Or you may be suffering a case of ‘FOMO’ (fear of missing out) afraid to proactively attack your Inbox (and Drafts, and Sent Items, and every other folder you have in your personal mailbox) in case you miss an important email.
The Fear of a Inbox Zero
A change is as good as a rest they say. It’s true because it gets you away from the norm. You have been away from your PC for over a week. Despite an “Out of Office” notification set up, you have 600+ unread emails in your Inbox. After dealing with urgent phone messages, postal and peer demands, you turn your attention to your Inbox, quickly forgetting how relaxed you felt yesterday after your lovely break away from work.
This all too familiar feeling engulfs over 80% of employees (educated guess) and can trigger a route to procrastination that none of us imagined possible. So much so, that after 2 weeks there are still 400+ emails unread, sitting in your Inbox, well and truly out of date.
So how to we tackle the “Post-holiday Inbox”?
Smartly of course, but with reverse action. Rather than dealing with urgent messages first (and trying to find them) let’s look at this problem from a different angle: let’s get rid of firstly the junk, then the overdue mails, then the important “action required” mails.
5 simple steps to InboxZero in under an hour
Dedicate 1 whole hour to uninterrupted space away from everyone, including phone, social networking, email and in-person visits.
#1. Fire the Spammers (5 minutes)
- Turn off your Reading Pane/Preview Pane
- Sort your Inbox by Sender
- Depending on the program you are using, you may or may not see messages grouped in threads. If this is the case, you can bulk delete messages. Let’s assume your messages are not grouped by threads. But by sorting by sender, they are grouped by sender.
- You can now simply bulk select ALL the newsletters, social network notifications and spammy mails and press DELETE
- Statistically this should clean up about 15-20% of unread messages
- Feeling better already?
[Selecting multiple emails:
Windows – SHIFT+Click to select a block of emails, CTRL+Click to select individual emails
Mac – SHIFT+Click to select a block of emails, COMMAND+Click to select individual emails]
#2. Cut the Conversation (10 minutes)
- Sort emails by Subject
- This allows you to group messages in ‘threads’ if not already available with your email application
- A quick scan of the latest reply of each subject will give you an idea of the general gist of the conversation
- Now select them in bulk and press DELETE.
- Another 30% gone!
- Wow, you are half way there!
#3. Out with the OLD (5 minutes)
- Sort emails by Date
- Some emails will be redundant discussions that are either not relevant any more, or have been concluded. Decide on a cut-off date – err on the side of caution if you must.
- Remember, everyone that sent you a mail received a notification that you were out of the office
- They will either follow up with another mail, or contact you directly if their request is urgent
- Select all emails older than your cut off date, and either DELETE or ARCHIVE them immediately
- Poof! Another 30% gone!
- This is nearly too good to be true. Nearly!
#4. Take Control of the Runaways (30 minutes)
- Turn on your Reading Pane / Preview Pane
Sort/Arrange emails by Date – oldest first
- Use the “Four Ds for Decision-Making” Rule (amended from Mann’s Process):
- Delete it ~ if you can find the info elsewhere, it is not relevant for the next 3 months, it is not important, or you are not required to keep it on record
- Do it ~ if it can be done in less than two minutes
- Delegate it ~ if you cannot do either of the first 2
- Defer it ~ if you cannot do either of the first 3. Ensure you send a quick reply to say you are dealing with the email, and then convert into a task or calendar event with reminder
TIP: If you are a regular Social Networker, go to their platforms and turn off email notifications for status updates, comments, tagging etc. Your SN site will inform you of all new activity when you log in.
You should now be only left with those 10-20 emails we never seem to quite know what to do with. DELETE them! Inbox Zero!! That’s Zero to Hero! Well done!
#5. Take a Break (10 minutes)
Go have a coffee, congratulate yourself, and tell everyone you will be busy for the rest of the day because you have 600+ emails to catch up on!
5 MORE Top Tips For An Immaculate Inbox
- BE RUTHLESS
- UNSUBSCRIBE rather than ignore unwanted newsletters
- SET UP RULES FOR SUBSCRIPTIONS AND GROUPS (another blogpost needed here)
- REGULAR CLEANUPS
- KEEP AN ORGANISED FOLDER SYSTEM
And no, you don’t have to read every email that you receive!!
So how did you do? Are you brave enough to attempt the deadly 4 D’s and achieve a Inbox Zero in under an hour? Let us know in the comments below.