6 Simple Steps To Conquer Your Email With Inbox Zero
part 2 of 2
Inbox zero is a proven method to manage your emails, boosting productivity. In this post I outline six steps to conquer your inbox. The inbox zero methodology is explained in my earlier post, Email: slave or master?
To improve your productivity, manage your email rather than letting it manage you. I have years of experience managing my own email and helping my staff, associates and clients with theirs. Inbox zero is a proven method. It’s simple, but not easy. You need to work at it to feel the freedom and clarity that comes with inbox zero and it is worth it
For the past two nights my email inbox is completely empty – all emails dealt with and moved into storage. Still a few finishing touches to do but OMG what a great feeling of lightness.
Julie, productivity coaching client, April 2015
Achieve inbox zero in six steps
Here is a step-by-step guide to declaring email bankruptcy and starting fresh (if you don’t want to start over completely, skim these ideas and choose those that will work for you):
- Empty your inbox. Start by moving everything out of you inbox into a new folder called ‘_April 2015’ – you can’t practice the new skill of achieving inbox zero if you start with thousands of email. From the minute you move your emails out of your inbox – you start your new routine (outlined below).
- Clear the backlog. Spend 15 minutes every day working through the ‘_April 2015’ folder. Note that the _ before April in the folder title is deliberate – this is so it appears at the top of your folder list.
- Remove your redirects. Remove all rules that redirect mail to particular folders. This allows you to review your subscriptions and unsubscribe from lists that are no longer relevant to you. This will temporarily increase the emails in your inbox and it will pay off in the long run.
- Email folders. Set up your new folder structure – start with ‘Filing’, ‘Waiting For’ and ‘Read’ – you can add others later if you need them. Most email clients have excellent search capability so there is no need to have a gazillion folders. If you’ve ever spent more than a few minutes searching for an email in your folder structure, you probably have too many folders.
- Manage in bursts. Process your inbox 2 to 4 times a day – no grazing. Set aside short periods of time where to ‘do email’. Do not skim your emails at other times of the day. While you’re building this new skill, do not look at your emails on your other devices. Unless you’re in a role requiring you to respond to emails immediately, please only look at them at your designated times. As described in my initial productivity tip on emails, turn all notifications off and close your email client.
- Apply the ‘one touch’ rule. Only look at each email once and decide to delete, action or file immediately. Don’t read and leave it in the inbox. Here are the choices:
- Delete – don’t be afraid to delete something you don’t need.
- Unsubscribe – then delete. The best way to reduce your email is to stop it coming in – you can find most things online if you really need them.
- If it will take you less than 2 minutes, action it immediately and file in your ‘Filing’ folder. I use 2 minutes as my benchmark for quick items – you may be more comfortable with 5 minutes.
- Decide that it will take more than 2 mins and include it as an action on your TO DO list (this can be paper, Evernote, Things, OmniFocus, Outlook Tasks etc). If you are using a TO DO system that is not compatible with your email (like paper, where you cannot link the task to the email), then you will need a separate folder for ‘Action’.
- Delegate by forwarding the email on and either file in your ‘Waiting For’ folder.
- Move to the ‘Read’ folder.
- If there is no action and you want to keep the email for reference, move it to the ‘Filing’ folder.
No email should remain in the inbox – it is not a place to store your tasks or serve as a trigger for action.
Congratulations, you’re ready to master your email.
Adopting inbox zero won’t be easy, and with persistent effort it will become second nature. Inbox zero is a proven method to manage your emails; it boosts productivity, simplifies your electronic life and saves time.
I hope you enjoy the freedom of inbox zero. I can help you implement inbox zero and improve your productivity using the system that best suits you. Email any queries to me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go here to review Part 1 of this post.