Wouldn’t it be nice to power through your inbox every day? Considering that the average professional receives more than 100 emails a day, chance would be a fine thing.
Endless messages from bloggers and PR execs about media opportunities and business enquiries, file attachments, invitations, sales messages, newsletters and spam fill inboxes daily. In fact, your inbox is probably getting cluttered with messages right this very second. This often means you spend much more time sifting through messages rather than actually getting any quality blogging done. Just when you thought you’d answered everything, another email pops up.
If you wake up to hundreds of emails every day, the concept of Inbox Zero might sound like a myth, but it is in fact a very real concept, and with a number of hacks and apps to help you get there, you can not only accomplish inbox zero but you can stay there too. To find out more about Inbox Zero, check out this guide.
Inbox Zero was first introduced in 2007 by productivity expert Merlin Mann, founder of the blog 43 Folders. It’s a methodical approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty (or at least ‘almost’ empty) at all times. The zero is not a reference to the number of messages in an inbox, but as Mann suggests: “It’s how much of your own brain is in your inbox.” The idea is to reduce the number of times per day you check for emails and once in there, open each message as few times as possible so you can focus your attention on what really matters.
Ultimately Inbox Zero is about changing your habits, but until those habits kick in, there are lots of hacks you can do to help you manage your inbox efficiently and effectively. As everyone’s lives, needs and habits are different, there’s no one-size fits all solution to inbox organisation but these hacks will get you well on your way.
1. Learn keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are one of the easiest ways to do things faster. Although they might take a bit of time getting used to, it will take seconds or even minutes off everything you do in your inbox. Once you’ve learnt a lot of them, you’ll definitely notice a boost to productivity because you’re not unnecessarily reaching for the mouse. Start by thinking about the 5 actions you use the most and learn the shortcuts for these actions. Here is a full list of shortcuts for some of the top email providers:
2. Archive messages
Do you worry about archiving messages? When you archive messages you’re finished with, what you’re left with is an inbox that consists only of actionable items. Remember by archiving you are still able to search for your messages based on a large number of criteria. Archiving means no more continually re-scanning hundreds of emails that are no longer important in search of the one you need to reply to and no more losing important emails in your inbox. Make your inbox the list for all your emails requiring action, and nothing else.
3. Introduce an email prioritisation system
Email prioritisation systems are great for productivity, as they sift through all of your unimportant emails so they never show in your inbox. You can then glance through those emails at the end of the day, or when you have some spare time. If email prioritisation is at the top of your list, then check out these apps:
4. Use advanced Gmail searches
If you are one of the 425 million people that use Gmail, you can learn to search your inbox just like you would if you searched the internet with Google. Gmail has such advanced search operators, that you can use it to find virtually anything, from emails with attachments to emails that began before or after a certain date.
5. Set follow up reminders
If you are waiting to hear back from someone, set up a system to remind you. This will ultimately help you form stronger relationships. Many Inbox Zero apps and plugins have features to allow you to add a specific date or time when sending an email so you can be notified if the recipient hasn’t got back to you within a set number of days. All of this helps you clear out your inbox, shorten your to-do list and never forget to follow up! These apps are great for achieving this:
6. Filter emails that aren’t urgent
If you receive an email that isn’t actionable at that time, get it out of your inbox and come back to it when it is important. Check out the Mailbox iPhone app which is built around this function. It lets you put off messages until later and automatically returns them to your inbox so you can focus on what is important now.