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Reaching inbox zero doesn’t have to be difficult. It isn’t impossible to overcome all those unread emails. Email is incredible – quick, paper-free, convenient communication – right at our fingertips. But an unintended consequence of this convenience and efficiency is that we are now faced with an overwhelming amount of information dropping into our inboxes on a daily basis. Learning how to achieve inbox zero has never been more important.
Email organisation is made more complicated by the likelihood that we have more than one email account. Hello work email, personal email, random email account from 10 years ago that we are embarrassed to share. What makes things even more complicated is the diversity of the email content. There will be a mixture of emails from friends, marketing emails, important personal emails, even business emails. And each of these emails requires a different response. Some may even add things to your to-do list.
But email doesn’t have to be overwhelming. I took action against my email account because the sheer number of emails was a source of anxiety. Here are the tips, hacks and routines that I use to reach inbox zero to keep my inbox clear. But before we dive in, let’s clear up some of the worries that you might have about working towards inbox zero.
What is Inbox Zero exactly?
Inbox zero means have 0 emails in your inbox.
You will still have emails stored and filed but they won’t be in your inbox.
Your inbox is well-organised so that you can reply, file or delete with ease.
Why should I consider Inbox Zero?
Reaching inbox zero will alleviate one stressor, one source of anxiety, one element of overwhelm. Technology is meant to help us, not make life more complicated or busy. Inbox zero is a great way of keeping on top of email correspondence and all the admin that comes with living and working.
Having an empty inbox won’t happen overnight. Reaching inbox zero is a process and it will take a little bit of work to get there, and a little bit of work to stay there. But I am here to help you with that, and make it so simple.
Will I need to open new email accounts?
Absolutely not. You can work with the email accounts you have now.
If you decide that having a separate email account for a specific thing would be helpful to you, then absolutely go ahead, but just remember that it is another account that you will need to keep on top of.
You can achieve inbox zero with any email provider. I use Gmail, but the inbox zero method works with Outlook, Yahoo and all other email providers. I will talk about Gmail in this post, but you will be able to apply the method to your own accounts.
Will I have to delete emails that I would prefer to store?
You definitely will not have to delete emails that you would prefer to keep.
Inbox zero is about achieving a clear inbox, not a completely empty email account.
Treat your email like you would paper correspondence or mail. Junk is thrown out (deleted). Personal mail is dealt with and either shredded or filed.
Easy as that.
Is Inbox Zero really possible?
I promise you it is! I organised my own main email account, which includes my business and freelance emails, in about a month and it has been clear ever since. My email gets opened three times a day, deal with the emails in 15 minutes and then move on.
Inbox zero is not about spending all day monitoring your email, awaiting the next email to drop in so you can deal with it. Inbox zero is a method to make life easier with organisation and email boundaries.
You can do this! Now, let’s get started!
My Inbox Zero Method
Less email coming in means less email to deal with. Evaluating each email critically will reduce the clutter and will make your inbox much easier to manage in the long run.
Unsubscribe to those newsletters that you never open.
Unsubscribe to marketing emails from that company you bought one thing from five years ago.
You get the picture. Unsubscribing will drastically reduce the number of emails you receive and make life that much simpler.
2. Create space for yourself.
Turn off email notifications. You know those ones you get from every social media account? Yeah now is the time to review those. Turn them off. You will see whatever you need to see when you log in to social media.
Have you previously set up Ebay filters? Go back and review filters for items you are no longer searching for. Remove them.
If you have any other random notifications that you never actually open or indeed notice… clear them out! Cut them off.
Create space for yourself.
3. Set yourself a routine to check emails and action them.
Reaching inbox zero is not about tying yourself to your email account 24/7. I recommend checking your email no more than 3 times daily, for up to 15 minutes.
Checking on and dealing with your emails regularly helps you to keep on top of your inbox and will make it much easier to keep it clear.
Set yourself a regular time to check your email each day. I check mine first thing in the morning, early afternoon, and early evening.
Choose a time that is suitable for you and works well with your schedule.
4. Delete unimportant emails without reading them.
When you open your inbox and see an email that you just know will have NOTHING in it of value to you, don’t scroll on passed. Stop and delete the email.
Don’t open it.
Just delete it. Get rid of it. Clear the clutter. It doesn’t need to be there.
5. Create a minimal number of folders.
Folders can help if you use your email account for a wide-range of activities such as personal, household management, work etc. Creating up to five folders can help with the filing system for those most crucial emails that need to be kept.
I have five folders called Household, Business, Freelance, Personal, Wait. In those folders there is never any more than 50 emails.
Too many folders can be confusing and create more clutter and more work for you. You might decide that you don’t need any folders at all.
Try a system, and if it doesn’t quite work for you then make some changes and try again.
6. Have an In-Progress file.
An in-progress file gives you a place to store those emails that can’t quite be deleted just yet, because something else needs to be finished up first. For instance, delivery notifications might be kept here until the delivery is made and confirmed to be correct. Order receipts might be kept here until the order is received.
This is the place where you can clear the emails from your inbox but still know where it is. You can then check this as part of your daily routine, and either delete or file these emails as necessary.
7. Reply simply.
Short emails respect people’s time. The “five-sentence-rule” is a great guideline that suggests communicating what you need to say in five sentences or less.
We also have a tendency to put off replying to emails that we think require more than a short or quick reply.
STOP THIS! It just creates clutter, it adds things to your to-do list unnecessarily and it creates extra worry for you.
A quick and short reply to an email is better than no response or a delayed response. Reply to those emails and then file or delete them.
8. Value your time.
Your time is important. Reading, replying, deleting and organising email takes time.
Set some boundaries with your email routine.
We live in a time where people expect almost instant responses to emails. This isn’t acceptable and by establishing your boundaries and sticking to them, it will help you and others to value your time better, and help you achieve inbox zero.
Simple routine when you check your email
A simple routine for each of the times you check your email to help you reach and maintain an empty inbox.
- Not urgent, but may be needed in future – file it.
- Requires a reply – reply to it, then delete or file it.
- Of no interest – unsubscribe and delete.
Hurray Inbox Zero!
It’s as easy as that. I hope you find the tips and suggestions to achieve inbox zero easy to put into practice. Are you excited to achieve inbox zero?
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