Achieving Inbox Zero

It’s January 3rd. You’ve not checked your inbox since before Christmas. Your inbox is full to the brim. Cue overwhelm! Is inbox zero achievable? Inbox zero is a phrase Merlin Mann devised 10 years ago to describe a completely clear inbox. That may not seem possible in this modern age but with a few simple steps you can do it.

1.Set designated times to read and reply.
This will depend on you and how you like to work. I tend to check first thing in the morning, after lunch and then again around 3pm. Set a sensible time limit each time, for example 15-minute slots. If you find you have distractions/interruptions then block this time out in your calendar.

2.Keep your inbox just for email.
Try not to use your inbox as a to-do-list. There are some great apps out there for this such as Trello, Asana, Wunderlist which are fully customisable.

3.Response time.
Aim to reply to business emails within 24 hours, personal ones within 72 hours.

4.Can you call?
Could you avoid lengthy email exchanges by telephoning/skyping the sender? A 5-minute telephone chat could save you both lots of time.

5.Set a target.
If you have hundreds of emails, then inbox zero is simply not achievable in one day. Set yourself a realistic target.

Set up four folders:
– Archive: completed emails that you need to keep
– Delegated: sent to another member of staff to deal with but you still need to monitor progress
– Awaiting response
– Action needed
Move your emails to one of these folders if you’re not able to delete them.

7. Deal with urgent emails first.

8.Time specific/ Deadlines.
Decline or accept invitations to meetings/ events. If your email app/ program does not automatically update your calendar, then ensure you add or delete the event as needed.

9.No longer relevant.
Have you received emails regarding lost property or car parking that occurred while you were on holiday? Delete them- they aren’t needed.

If you haven’t read a newsletter within a week, chances are you won’t find time in the future either. Send those unsubscribe emails to stop these unnecessary emails clogging up your inbox.

If an email needs forwarding do it immediately and then delete it from your inbox.

If a response will take 2 minutes or less, then respond to it immediately and clear that email!

13.Group/ Project
If you’re receiving emails regarding a group or project that you’re no longer involved with then email the sender to request that you’re taken off the list and delete those emails!

Going forward the best way of keeping your emails organised is to set up filters. This will mean the organisation is automated! Perfect! You can set up filters by sender, topic, all sorts. Once set up the emails will automatically bypass your inbox and land in the allocated folder. Set up of these filters will vary from app to app.

These are very simple tips just to get you started. If you need a helping hand with your emails/ inbox organisation, I offer monthly packages on retainer or ad-hoc First Aid for Email packages. Prices start at £20 per hour. Contact me if you’d like more details.

Christina Manson, Virtual Assistant
CJM Business Support
03.01.2019 ©Christina Manson