A while back my buddy Richard shared with me an email strategy called “inbox zero.” I tried it for a minute then went back to my old ways of letting thousands of emails pile up. I have recently taken back the banner of inbox zero and I am sticking with it. Those who post about hundreds upon hundreds of emails piling up, I feel your pain. I know what it’s like to come home from vacation and have to filter through all the junk mail to find the things that truly need your attention.
Inbox zero is a new philosophy for email management. Instead of your email being a catchall for everything the Internet wants to throw at you, Inbox zero says to look at your email like a task list. Only keep things visible that need action. Inbox zero is the minimalist way to manage email and it will keep you on task. At the end of the day, you should have zero emails in your inbox. Yup, ZERO.
Here are a few tips for getting there:
- Change the way you think about email: My main task every day is not to manage email. Email is important to my work but it really isn’t everything. I do need to stay up on it or it will consume me. However, I was not hired to manage email an inordinate amount every week. My main tasks are teaching, leading and helping others grow. When email overwhelms me, I am off task!
- Delete Freely: I delete any message four years old and message that is clearly spam. Why? When I search for old emails, spam can find its way into the search results and that is frustrating. (If your are in a profession that requires you to keep records for seven years then don’t do this)
- Archive Freely: There is this old management motto that went something like this, “a peace of paper should never touch your hands twice.” In other words, when you see it, deal with it! Archiving email is just hiding it. Once you’ve dealt with the email, archive immediately. In most email apps you can simply search for that email or search archive and pull up what you need. Archive does not mean delete!
- Unsubscribe to everything non-essential: I wish I could do this with the advertising mailers that come to my house. They are literally mailing me trash! As a person that sends a weekly email, I feel the pain on this, it hurts to lose subscribers, but on the other hand it will hurt you worse in the long run to bother them!
- Turn off email notifications on your phone: I cannot begin to tell you how awesome it is to not see the emails as they come in. Unless your business absolutely demands that you reply on someone else’s schedule, it is not necessary to have this notification come up!
- Close that email window: I get it, some work demands being on email all day. If your task isn’t primarily email, then close that email window. It is throwing you off what you were hired to do!
- Set a time to open your emails: For the most part I have transitioned to only dealing with emails on my computer. I try and only open my emails three times a day. I work on email at the beginning, middle and end of my day. In the process I have been less stressed and more responsive to email.
- If you get to many emails per day to handle then you are at the point of hiring an assistant: A really good assistant can think for you, and can deal with the bulk of your email. They can free you up to do what is really important.
It is my hope that as you follow these steps that you will begin to manage your email and not allow it to manage you. Once you are in charge of your email rather than your email running your life you will begin to brag about how few emails you get!Share