Unleash Your “Inbox Zero” Skills
Let’s be honest. Having the “Inbox Zero” looks cool and a productivity guru. The term refers to the practice of keeping your email inbox empty — or almost empty — most of the time. This can be achieved by handling new emails every day. Many people — including myself — have more than one email address — I have five. It is hard to keep up with the clutter if you leave the inbox populated with new emails and newsletters every day until you reach a point where the inbox is huge that you skip most emails, which might lead to missing out on a lot of important emails.
People are used to checking emails — even if they are not fans of the inbox zero club — and spend a lot of time trying to delete the unwanted emails and archive others, plus responding to the important emails, all that at once. Then a few hours later, the inbox gets a hit of new emails and so on. This is why you need to manage your emails’ inboxes. Doing so will make you know what you want to receive and what to cut out of your inbox — usually unsubscribing to newsletters. The main idea is to get a framework that is working for you such that you spend less time on emails and more time doing productive work.
Here is a simple framework that, if followed correctly, would reduce the time spent on emails every day — feel free to adjust some parts to tailor it to your needs:
#1 Stop Checking Your Email Every Minute.
Close your email client and only check emails at certain times. Checking your email every minute will make you anxious and distract you from doing what is important. Set a time block for checking emails, preferably twice a day, and stick to it. Doing so would improve your responses to others since you are fully focused on answering emails and not doing it casually whenever you get the chance to do so.
#2 Delete Your Email Client On Your Phone.
Having an email client on your phone is the worst thing you can do — unless you don’t mind getting notifications every minute. Most people will not mind getting emails all day long. However, business people and professionals would agree that having many notifications on their phones, including new emails, is very distracting and annoying. What if you need to use your email on your phone? Do that through your phone’s browser. This will mitigate the habit of checking emails every minute, and checking your email on a phone browser might be inconvenient, forcing you only to use it whenever necessary.
Alternative approach: For those who need to reply to emails on the go — on trains, airplanes, and so on — Keep the app but disable the notifications on the email client. And check the email whenever you wish. Most email apps have this option in the settings menu inside the app. Otherwise, you could do it in the phone settings.
#3 Batch Checking Your Emails.
This is one of the reasons you won’t be needing an email client on your phone. After you set the time to answer your emails, do that in a batch — commit to the task till it is done — such that you manage the emails in your inbox and get them out of the way in one sitting. This is usually can be done in less than an hour. If you need more time responding to certain emails, you should have a strategy for that — see the next point, #4.
#4 The 2 Minute Rule
If the email at hand takes 2 minutes(or less) to reply, do it now and get it out of the way. Otherwise, if you think it will take more than 2 minutes, move it to the “Requires Response” folder — discussed in the next point, #5.
#5 Create Folders
Don’t just rely on your default “Inbox” folder. You can be more productive when you use the folders feature — available in all email clients. Create folders to manage different email kinds. This will depend on your business case, but here are few suggestions that can be used generally:
”Requires Response” Folder
This folder is for the emails that require detailed or would take you more than 2 minutes to respond to. Moving the emails here will make you more productive when going for your next “email checking session” later in the evening. Start with this folder first to get the unimportant emails out of the way while focusing on what is essential.
”Read Later” Folder
This folder can be used to move the lengthy emails with the informative type that doesn’t require a response — usually newsletters — to read them later when you have the time. This will not allow you to get into the email and spend the next 30 minutes reading an article attached to that email.
”Schedule A Call/Meeting” Folder
This folder is for the emails that are hard to respond to through an email or need to be taken to the phone or the meeting room. This can be useful to set the daily agenda and know what you need to work on and who you need to meet at a certain time.
You can create automatic email forwarding that moves emails from specific senders to folders of your choice. Which saves you a lot of time afterwards.
#6 Use Archive/Forward/Delete Wisely
When you are going through the emails, filter them to get the most clutter out of the way. Don’t leave emails in your inbox. This is not a good practice — imagine leaving your post mailbox full of letters. The following is what each action should look like:
Move your emails that you are done with to this folder to ensure that it is there for future reference. Most emails get archived if you don’t have a lot of spam, newsletter, marketing emails.
Suppose you think that someone else can answer this email or should be informed about it. Forward it, then archive when the topic is resolved or closed. Delegation is mostly used if you have a team to forward to them.
Always make sure that whatever you are deleting is not important. In case you want to get the digest of an email, then you don’t need it for future references, then, by all means, delete it. Most newsletters are deleted after being consumed and taking notes elsewhere unless you find them valuable to archive.
That’s all for this post; I hope you enjoyed it.
If you did, it would be great to share it with your friends and family. Also, if you want me to write about a particular topic/method in productivity, I would be more than happy.
Have a lovely weekend!