There are many individuals who never delete emails. These individuals believe that dealing with folders and worrying about what to delete is a waste of time and that Inbox Zero should be left in the 90s. However, having a zero inbox is still largely seen as the Holy Grail of the digital age.
What is Inbox Zero?
Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann. It’s aimed at keeping the inbox empty or at least partially empty and reducing the amount of time you are preoccupied by email, to the extent at which your inbox weighs on your mind. It only takes about 15 minutes to initially set up, but might change how you work with email forever. All it takes is a commitment to maintaining order in your digital P.O. box.
As the number of unread messages steadily increases, many people are consumed and experience a feeling of dread and believe there is no fix to this plague of an Internet-infused existence.
According to Radicati’s “Email Statistics Report, Business Professionals Sent and Received 121 Emails a Day, on Average, in 2014. And That Number Is Increasing”
Everyone’s habits and needs differ. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to inbox organization. However, we’ve rounded up our very best tips for prioritizing your emails and achieving a more efficient workflow.
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Delete
Anxiety, fear, disenchantment, whichever emotion overcomes you when you open your inbox must stop. Everyone feels overwhelmed at times, that called being human. Don’t concern yourself with feeling, instead focus on the doing. Decide what emails are unimportant and delete and archive as many new and old messages as possible, then forward what can be answered by someone else. Archived emails are forever searchable and forever out of sight.
If your too busy to regularly filter emails received, schedule a few hours every week to cleanse your inbox and get it down to the zero.
Standing in line buying shopping or waiting for the train is the perfect time to de-clutter your inbox.
2. Organize Your Inbox
Creating folders helps prevent your inbox from filling up. Emails about upcoming meetings, concerts or travel plans don’t necessarily deserve a place in your inbox. You can instead add events to your calendar.
We recommend creating folders for “purchases,” “events” and “travel,” where you can store things like airline confirmations, hotel reservations, concert tickets or restaurant booking.
3. Open With Caution
You can’t reply to everything, so concentrate on what matters at the right time, and reply to the rest later. Be honest about your priorities and set realistic time expectations. Use your gut instinct about which emails deserve a response and which deserve to be deleted — it can be hard, but learning when to say no is crucial. Less is always more so get into the practice of sending short concise emails, not an essay, a thesis paper, or a book. Simple bullets are great.
You Need to Be Mature in Your Decisions and Be Wise Enough to Delete the Emails You Don’t Want.
4. The 80/20 Rule
20% of our emails will consume 80% of our time. Don’t fight it. Instead quickly handle the remaining 80% by quickly responding to new messages that can be answered in two or less minutes. Then move other messages that require more than two minutes to answer to a separate “requires response” folder. Also try to process email periodically throughout the day, perhaps at the top of each hour and don’t leave the email client open.
5. Be True
Honesty is the best policy in adopting “inbox zero”. Be honest about your priorities and set realistic time expectations. Use your gut instinct about which emails deserve a response and which deserve to be deleted — it can be hard, but learning when to say no is crucial in achieving inbox zero.
Six Inbox Folders You’ll Need
- Weekly Review: For emails we don’t need to read immediately, but should review by the end of the week.
- Backlog: For emails that simply aren’t a current priority that we should revisit eventually.
- Action Required: For emails that require us to complete a task or follow up.
- Awaiting Response: For emails that we expect important responses to.
- Delegated: For emails we’ve delegated to others.
- Archived: For emails we want out of our inbox without deleting them entirely.
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