Inbox Zero – is it just a myth? It’s something that we all strive for in the world of business, but can it actually be a reality in today’s inbox-reliant culture?
Whether your goal is Inbox Zero or merely Inbox “Fifty,” more often than not this milestone has something to do with how you manage your inbox. Inboxes are busy places – emails coming and going like trains at Grand Central Station – but with a few simple tweaks, your inbox can become more manageable and sane, making your day a lot easier.
Top Tips For Reaching Inbox Zero
- Turn Off Notifications
- Don’t Use Your Email As A Task List
- Don’t Mix Work With Personal Emails
- Use Labels And Folders
- Work Offline
Turn Off Notifications
The notification noise that exists within every email client – while useful at times – can be harmful to reaching those low inbox numbers.
While this may sound counter-productive, the arrival of the email ping or little envelope at the bottom of your computer screen immediately causes you to head to your inbox, ripping into whatever task you were doing. Spending twenty minutes on an email each time it comes in will have a knock on effect on ALL of your work; emails interrupt tasks, which don’t get done within the time frame you had planned. Instead of dealing with emails as they arrive, have a few dedicated times to spend on them each day; it is far more constructive and your inbox will thank you.
Don’t Use Your Email As A Task List
Emails do contain tasks, projects and assignments, but using it as a task list isn’t helpful. It can certainly help you to draw up a to-do list, but this should be on a notebook or in a productivity app rather than your inbox.
Using your email list as a to-do list can create confusion and a disorganized work day as it isn’t designed to be a coherent project management list. In the quest for an emptier inbox, emails can get moved around and a task can be easily forgotten if this is your sole place for organization. Working with a list ensures a plan from A to Z, and the satisfaction of going into your inbox on their completion and knowing that the email a task relates to is done.
Don’t Mix Work And Play
It’s easy to do this one, and many people do. Perhaps a family member emails you at work on their lunch hour, or you contact a friend about work advice from your personal email. Not only is this interfering with your day and wasting time when you should be working, but it is mixing work with play which isn’t going to be helpful in the quest for an emptier inbox.
Separate the two and draw the line; your inbox will be a much more organized place because of it.
Use Labels And Folders
Folders are a key organizational system for your inbox, but they have to be super systematized to function well. Don’t just have individual folders for a specific person or project, create practical sub-folders that will help you find emails at a later date, such as ‘Funding for the NY Project’, ‘February Meeting’, or ‘Travel’. In doing so, your emails when received and responded to can be designated to a sensible and methodical destination without simply sitting in your inbox.
One of the reasons Inbox Zero isn’t achieved is that people are replying as you’re replying. That’s great, yes, but will it help if you’re trying to reach the end of emails that have already come in that day? If you usually concentrate on the day’s email at home after the work day has ended, turn your email client into offline mode and respond to the emails. They’ll form an orderly queue in the outbox, and as soon as you go back online they’ll head out in one go. Then, shut off your computer and leave emails until the next day. Inbox Zero is achieved, even if it is just for a short period of time.