Today I reached Inbox Zero. It’s not something which happens often in my professional life. Despite penning articles such as how to permanently eliminate a cluttered inbox, I am ashamed to admit, that I have struggled, and still struggle on a daily basis to keep on top of my email.
In this blog post I will share how we kid ourselves with our email, and share some realistic, light touch and low process best practice to help you keep on top of your inbox.
1. The less email you receive the easier it is to get to inbox zero
It doesn’t matter how good you are at sifting your email, or how many rules you set up, the less email you receive, the less email you have to process, the easiest it is to stay on top of your email. Therefore, religiously unsubscribe from any newsletter or bulk marketing emails which you don’t receive regularly.
2. Setting up folders called ‘to read at a later date’ doesn’t normally work
Typically all you do is leave these emails in this folder and don’t look at them ever again. Any manual process where you double handle or double process an email, very often doesn’t work unless you are very disciplined in the first place. If you are very disciplined in the first place, you probably don’t have a problem keeping on top of your email!
Unless you use an automated email productivity solution like sanebox, the challenge of processing emails in ‘to action’, ‘to read’, ‘to file’, ‘read at a later date’, often just doesn’t happen.
3. Forget filing emails – either action, schedule, delete or archive
Unless you have a work email system where you have a severely limited size of your email folder, then set up a folder called archive. Then use a ‘to do’ list manager or email tool like sanebox to either schedule when you will process the email, delete the email or send it to the archive to keep it for a later date. You are more likely to find the email when you need to re-read by searching for it rather than looking for it in the folder you remembered to save it in.
4. Don’t use your inbox as your pending tray
All this does is encourage you to procrastinate on emails and build up high levels of emails in your inbox. Referring back to point 3, when you receive an email either process it immediately, delete it, schedule it to process for a certain date, or send it to your archive folder if you may need it in the future.
5. Set a task to follow up on email
One of the ways I cluttered up my inbox was to leave in my inbox emails which I needed an answer or to follow up on. Unfortunately there is no easy way to do this (unless you use sanebox to set a reminder, and redeliver the email back into your inbox on the date you want to follow up). One ‘fudge’ way to do this is add the ‘follow up’ as a task to your scheduled to do list. Then add the email which you are waiting for a reply on to your archive folder.
6. Process your email in batches
Yes, it is more effective to process your email in batches. Set yourself times during the day when you will go in and blitz your email. It’s far easier to do this when you have reached inbox zero. It’s when the emails in your inbox starts to increase, that it becomes easier to ignore the set times for process email, and fall into bad habits again.
[box title=”Plan your time effectively” box_color=”#9f9bb2″]
To help you plan your day more effectively, how about downloading one of our free day or weekly planners? (email required) [/box]
Ultimately at the end of the day you will only keep on top of your email if you have a powerful motivate to do so. As I found out potentially losing out on new clients was enough of a motive for me to get on top of my email this time and STAY on top of it.
What are your tips for staying on top of emails?