Inbox Zero is more than just “having no emails in your Inbox”. The phrase Inbox Zero also represents the method we recommend to help you consistently manage your inbox.
We advise using a five step process in which to evaluate new mail. When a new email arrives in your inbox, take one of the following actions: either delete or archive the email depending on your preference, delegate the work to another contact, defer the response until a later date using SaneBox defer folders, respond if the reply will take less than two minutes, or do the job yourself if you have the time available when you read the message. With this process you will never again have to read an email twice. Let’s take a deeper look at each step of the process.
Delete an email if you know that you will never need to read it again, and Archive any messages that may be useful in the future. To archive an email, simply forward the message to another account. Then, even if you somehow lose your main email (whether your provider goes down, or your account gets compromised), you’ll always have a copy of the message saved in another account.
A key point to consider when evaluating new mail is to remember- if somewhere in the world there’s a poor sucker who can deal with one of your emails, then, by all means save yourself a headache and forward it on. When deferring a message, a key tip is to use either Sanebox’s SaneReminders feature or Boomerang; these two applications will remind you if the person you delegated the job to doesn’t respond to your message by a certain time.
Another option is to defer the new message until a later date. If an email is not urgent or not actionable until a later date, most people tend to leave it in their Inbox. The problem with this method is, it causes you to look at the message (i.e. spend time and focus thinking about it) every time you open your Inbox. A much better option is to move the message out of your Inbox. SaneBox offers yet another tool for this – Defer Folders. Move an email into one of them, and the email will pop back in your Inbox tomorrow morning, on Monday, or at any other predetermined time. This way you don’t have to worry about the email until it becomes actionable.
The last two steps of the process are the real money makers. Respond right away to an email if it is really urgent, or if the response will take under 2 minutes. Take action immediately; don’t waste any time adding it to your to-do list. The last step of the process is the toughest, and there are no fancy tricks to save you; DO the work necessary to respond to the email and get it over with before it’s too late!
The Inbox Zero philosophy not only helps you stay on top of your email but it also helps you gain separation from constant email interruptions. We recommend scheduling blocks of time during the day in which to check emails. A Study, by the Danwood Group, found that it takes an average of 1.5 minutes to read and recover from an email. If an employee is alerted every 5 minutes when new mail arrives in their inbox they can expect up to 96 interruptions in a regular 8-hour workday. Scheduling specific times during the day to check email will erase the constant stress of email interruptions, and will improve your overall productivity.
It is important to remember that checking email is not priority number one; instead it should be thought of as one of many tasks that you need to attend to throughout the day. It can be helpful to set a deadline or use a timer to keep you on task and motivated. A study conducted by researchers from U.C. Irvine and the U.S. Army found that when employees are away from their email, stress levels decrease and employee focus increases, so once time’s up, close your email client and refocus on your other priorities.
Read our email manifesto 100 Email Hacks eBook, , and keep reading this blog to learn more time saving tips and to discover the latest technological innovations.