All of us get tons of spam in our email daily. Weekly newsletters, updates, promos, and other emails are mostly rubbish that you will not be reading anytime soon. However, some of these may still be of use to you, so it’s important not to miss them. Here’s how you can get to Inbox Zero and sort out your email in an effective way.
What is the logic of the Inbox Zero method?
Inbox Zero was first introduced by Merlin Mann over a decade ago in his Inbox Zero Google Tech Talk. Merlin Mann is also the creator of 43 Folders which is a popular personal productivity system.
At its core, Inbox Zero is a system that helps people sort out large amounts of email in a short period of time. This reduces the amount of effort and time that you usually put into the process of checking your Inbox.
After you start practicing Inbox Zero, you will be in control of your priorities rather than your senders being in control. But don’t forget that this method is not about simply deleting all of your incoming emails and requires you to truly work on your Inbox.
How is Inbox Zero related to GTD?
GTD is also known as Getting Things Done, a practice introduced by David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. Getting Things Done is focused on moving planned tasks out of your mind onto paper and then breaking them up into actionable work items. This helps you channel your attention towards doing the tasks rather than trying to recall them.
“You don’t actually do a project; you can only do action steps related to it. When enough of the right action steps have been taken, some situation will have been created that matches your initial picture of the outcome closely enough that you can call it “done”,” says David Allen in his book Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.
Getting Things Done is very much related to Inbox Zero as the latter could be considered one of the steps in the GTD method. Once you sort out your Inbox, you will be able to move on to more complicated tasks in your life.
How to process your Inbox effectively?
Instead of reading your emails, Mann suggests that you “process” them which doesn’t always require reading. Your aim is to sort your emails into five main groups according to their specific characteristics or traits:
- Delete: This category is for emails that you have processed. Once you got all the information you needed, you can either delete or archive the email. At the same time, remember to keep your archive simple rather than creating a complex system of folders.
- Delegate: This category is for the emails you need to delegate to someone else later. Delegate the task and set up a reminder to get back to it later. It’s a great way to set your attention on the more important tasks.
- Respond: This category is for the emails that you have to respond to. If you will need less than 2 minutes to do that, respond immediately. But if you need more time, you can sort the email into this category.
- Defer: This category is for the emails that require more of your time and attention as well as more effort. If you need time to read the email or reply to it, you can sort it into this category to check it out later the same day.
- Do: This category is practically for all the emails that you must do something with. Such actions include reading the email, responding to it, sending an invite, and so on and so forth. As long as it takes more than 2 minutes, you can place it here.
To help you sort out the emails in your Inbox, you can also use additional tools. Alternatively, you can stick to primarily manual sorting.
How to get to Inbox Zero?
So, how do you get to Inbox Zero? Here are four simple steps or tips for you to follow:
- Set Aside Some Time: Every day, set aside some time to sort your email. Depending on how many emails you get daily, you will need more or less time for it. To make this process even more effective, you can check your Inbox twice or even three times a day. For example, checking your email in the morning and in the evening will ensure that you don’t get to deal with too many emails at once.
- Explore The Organization Options: It doesn’t matter whether you use Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or any other email provider, you will probably have a mobile app on your smartphone or tablet that you use for checking your Inbox on the go. A good idea will be to explore the organization options in your app and see what you can do to sort your emails even better.
- Benefit From Automation: Automation is great, so if you are still not benefiting from it, then you should really think about it now. Many processes in your Inbox can be easily automated with the help of the features in your email or additional tools or extensions that can be integrated with your email.
- Handle Emails In Chunks: Handling your emails in chunks will help you be more productive with your Inbox and achieve Inbox Zero faster. For example, in Gmail, you can tick dozens of emails and then decide which action you want to apply to them. You can move many messages to spam this way which saves a lot of time.
All in all, it’s not that difficult to get to Inbox Zero even if your email is extremely cluttered already. In fact, if you follow the steps in this article, you will be able to sort your email in a matter of hours if not minutes. Start managing your Inbox more effectively with Inbox Zero.