Email was supposed to be a convenient, time saving tool that freed us all for long lunches and three day weekends. Raise your smart phone if it’s done the opposite for you. You’re not alone. The good news is that even the most out of control inbox can be tamed. You can take charge and make your email work for you. I use and teach Inbox Zero, and I think everyone can benefit by either fully implementing it or adopting some of its principles.
Inbox Zero is a term coined by Merlin Mann in 2007. His definition was focused on having a clear headspace, while the term has evolved to be more of a practical methodology. The aim of Inbox Zero is to use consistent attention to maintain an empty email inbox. Can you imagine zero emails in your inbox?
It’s possible, it’s productive and it’s liberating. I have a simple, six step guide to achieving inbox zero on my blog. It can be a challenging process, so I recommend starting with these three principles:
- Stop snacking on email. Make a meal of it.
Are you dipping in and out of your inbox across the day, reading emails, replying quickly, reprioritising your day based on what comes in? Frequent, unmonitored checking of email in work time (and personal time) is what I call snacking on email. Snacking is unproductive. It allows others to prioritise your work, interrupts your concentration and flow, and wastes your time, especially as it often involves ‘double handling’ email.
Make a meal of your email instead of snacking. Turn off email notifications on your phone and other devices and set aside times each day to deal with your email.
- Fiercely guard your inbox.
The most effective way to manage emails is to stop them before they arrive in your inbox. Don’t let anything into your inbox that isn’t worthy of your time and energy. All those unnecessary emails are costing you. Don’t keep deleting them or filing them each time they arrive. It’s time to unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from:
- Notification emails from social media accounts. Don’t let these accounts dip into your time; set aside time to access them directly.
- Retailer emails, both business and personal (your credit card will thank you too)
- Lists you joined to access a ‘free report’ or similar
- Blogs and newsletters that you can bookmark and access when you have time
- Emails that aren’t relevant to you anymore.
Your inbox shouldn’t be a waiting room or an additional to-do list. It’s a clearing house. Only look at each email once, and then delete, action, or file it immediately. Delete unnecessary emails. If an email requires action you can do it immediately if it’s a quick task, add longer or complex tasks to a to-do list, or delegate it. File anything you need for future reference.
Don’t let email waste your time and sap your energy, you can master your inbox. Inbox Zero is a great way of gaining control and boosting your productivity. I’ve helped clients with over 10,000 emails in their inboxes achieve Inbox Zero. Start with making a meal of your email, guarding your inbox and adopting a one touch mindset.
Visit my blog if you’re ready to take control.
For more on taking control of your emails, check out 11 tips to stop you drowning in emails.
This post was written by guest writer and executive coach Cass Russell.