How to Manage Your Emails with Inbox Zero

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Have you ever felt the urge to close your inbox immediately after opening it?

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Just looking at the sheer number of emails pulled up in the inbox can be an overwhelming experience for anyone. You may look at it once and put the email on the back of your mind to get back to it later, but this only adds to the suffocating feeling.

There is a way to take control of this madness and keep it on a leash, and that is the inbox zero. Inox zero is an email management system created to help you check and reply to emails efficiently and keep your mind free of stress.

Once you have experienced the aspects of a minimal and organized inbox, there is no going back. And here, we'll tell you how you can attain inbox zero and keep it that way.

Table of contents

What is inbox zero 📭 ?

Inbox zero is an email management system established by Merlin Mann to help employees effectively manage their time dealing with emails on a day-to-day basis.

Merlin Mann was inspired by a book he read called" Getting Things Done" by David Allen on time management. He wanted to efficiently manage his time which led to him creating the Inbox Zero system.

The goal of inbox zero was to create a daily routine or system that helps optimize the time spent by employees dealing with their emails every day.

According to this system, a person has to take any of these five actions for each email: deleting, delegating, responding to emails, or archiving them in a separate folder to deal with it later.

However, this doesn't mean out of sight out of mind; it is just categorized based on what action is required for it, which you can get to later on when you have scheduled to do it.

By following this method, you can ensure that your inbox stays nearly empty and will only have emails from the previous day and not be filled with old and unnecessary emails.

What are the benefits of maintaining inbox zero 👍 ?

The inbox zero systems are created to help people optimize the way they deal with their emails every day, and here is how it does that:

Makes checking your email a stress-free process 🧘🏻

When you have an inbox zero, the amount of clutter in the inbox is drastically reduced, which can help employees not get stressed when they open their inbox.

Also, they don't have to constantly think about emails that they have to respond to but rather deal with it at an allotted time every day.

Efficient use of time ⏱

According to the method, you would spend a few minutes daily deleting unnecessary emails, categorizing and replying to the urgent emails in your inbox.

This cuts down the time you would have spent distracted by unwanted and unimportant emails.

Emails are dealt with daily all at once ✅

People usually use their emails as a to-do list for the day and keep returning to it, only to be distracted by new emails.

But using inbox zero, you only touch the email once and either delete, archive, or reply to it. This way, you don't use your inbox as a to-do list and only check it once or twice a day.

How can you achieve inbox zero 📭 ?

If you are going to, for the first time, try to get your email inbox to zero, then allocate a few hours to allow time to complete setup everything. Of course, the amount of time it takes depends on how many emails you already have in your inbox.

Here are the tasks you need to do if you are aiming to reach inbox zero for the first time:

Delete all the unnecessary emails ❌

What qualifies as an unnecessary email entirely depends on you and what you think is valuable. In general, you can first go ahead and select all the promotional emails, social emails, notification emails and delete them. Don't worry yet; they'll still be there in the bin if, for a few days, you feel like you need a specific email.

Unsubscribe ✂️

You can unsubscribe from all emails as you delete them. Yes, it may seem tedious but know that you'll live stress-free later on if you do it just this one time. Unsubscribe from any marketing emails, newsletters, etc., that used to be exciting to read but no longer excite you or give you value.

If you have too many emails to unsubscribe from, you can use an application like Unroll.me, which will combine all the email lists you are a part of into a single list from which you can unsubscribe quickly.

Archive the necessary emails 📥

Keep all the emails you feel will be helpful in the future as you don't want to lose valuable information.

You can create a few labels or folders to organize the emails while archiving them, but if you feel it is too tiresome, you can skip it for now and just hit archive for all the leftover emails.

Even if you don't put it into folders and organize the email, it can still be easily found using the search element in the email client.

Create folders and labels 🗃

Sometimes not all emails can be dealt with at that moment, so create separate folders within the inbox to archive your emails so that you can get to them later.

Create folders customized to your needs and what you would want to refer to, and this comes with time as you figure out what works for you.

For example, you can create three main folders called 'Respond', 'Read through', and 'Pending'. Pending is meant for emails you have delegated to someone else who has yet to take action. You can put all the newsletters and announcements in the read-through folder.

Delegate emails 💼

If you feel like the email can be best answered by someone else, delegate it to them and archive it in the" Pending" label and only remove it once the person has done the task in the email.

Best practices to maintain inbox zero

Now that you have cleaned up your inbox, it's now up to you to make sure that you keep it that way. So, here are some best practices you can follow:

1. Don't leave your inbox open on your screen

If you have your inbox always open, it tempts you to check it often, making you distracted from work and wasting time.

So, only open your inbox once or twice a day at scheduled times to ensure that you deal with emails efficiently.

2. Only touch the email once

When an email comes into your inbox, check if it's necessary or not and either delete or archive it into your folders.

But, if you feel that you can reply to the email within 2 minutes or so, immediately respond to it. If it can't be done in two minutes, archive it into a folder to respond later.

Gmail tip: if you use Gmail, you can click on the "move to" button to put it into your folder as it labels and archives it at once. There is a keyboard shortcut hack for this as well; you can click on v on your keyboard for "move to."

3. Allocate time to check and respond to emails

Make sure you put aside time every day to read emails that you have archived and reply to any that requires a response. This way, people who email you are assured that they will get a response within a day at a particular time.

And, you will also not be overwhelmed throughout the day thinking about emails, and you can rest easy knowing you will tackle it at that time every day.

4. Stop using your email as a to-do list

Do not use your emails as a to-do list or reminder of the tasks you need to do.

Instead, pick the tasks you need to do from the emails and schedule them in your to-do list. That list can be on Notion, Google's Keep notes, or even pen and paper.

After you have completed the task given, you can then later respond to that email.

5. Don't obsess on how many emails are in your inbox

Zero is just an ideal number, but it may not be the reality for most of us, which is entirely ok. It's not about the numbers; it's about the efficiency of the person's time spent in the inbox.

So don't focus on the number of emails in your inbox and try to deal with the emails in a manner that works for you.

6. Keep the number of inbox folders to a minimum

Don't get sucked into the game of organizing all the emails neatly into different labels, and use a minimum of 3-5 folders/ labels.

Going overboard with the folders will waste more time as even if you don't organize it, you can still find it easily using the search feature in the email client.

Wrap up

Inbox zero is a great way to organize your inbox and streamline the way you deal with emails.

It may not be for everyone, so the only way to know is to try it out. And if it doesn't work out for you, just let it go.

Try out inbox zero to help you get a handle on your inbox for the upcoming year.

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