Getting Your Inbox to Zero

Is Inbox Zero Realistic? 

Your email inbox. What feelings does it evoke in you? Anxiety? Dread? Overwhelm? If the feelings you have about your inbox are all negative, you’re not alone. We’ve all been there, agonizing over emails we didn’t respond to, worrying about what might have fallen through the cracks. The stream of content entering your inbox can feel neverending, and it can be easy to lose control. 

Why Inbox Zero

We’ve all been to a point where we lost control of our inbox and felt like there was no going back. Even if you keep up with your email regularly, it can be overwhelming—as soon as you clean out everything, you refresh and realize that there are new emails waiting. 

The truth is that “Inbox Zero” isn’t “Zero” forever. The reality is that an empty inbox is temporary. Email is a constant, and we need to accept that. The goal of “Inbox Zero” is to put a process in place to make email more manageable and less stressful so you can take back a little bit of your time and use it for something more important. 

Achieving an “Inbox Zero” is possible. Getting there could shift those negative feelings around your email towards positive, and even evoke feelings of joy. Best of all, it won’t be overwhelming to get there. All it takes is a change in mindset, and a system for handling emails, both of which we’ll guide you towards with the tips below. 

Change Your Mindset

Getting to inbox zero requires changing how you think about email and your inbox. 

Inboxes are often used in ways they’re not meant for, including: 

  • As a to-do list
  • As a file hosting service
  • As a place to save links to articles you want to read later 
  • As a calendar

Messages aren’t meant to live in your inbox. Your inbox should be a processing center: a place where messages wait to be read, then moved or removed once you are done reading. 

Think of them as travelers whose passports you need to check before sending them on their way.

When you think of your inbox as a processing center, you understand that you can’t let them pile up. You need to handle them. You need to process them.

Processing isn’t the same as checking. It’s not the same as responding, either. Processing is shining a light onto each message AND asking, What do I need to do?

Productivity expert Merlin Mann compares processing emails to working behind a deli counter. You don’t just check an order. You make a sandwich, then move to the next order. With emails, it’s the same process: you check the email, then take an action. What about emails that aren’t “sandwich” material? More on that below. 

Tips for Achieving Email Zen

  1. Spend less time in your inbox. Instead of leaving your inbox open all the time, consider closing your email tab and checking your inbox at regular intervals. Merlin suggests spending 10 minutes processing emails every hour. Tim Ferris recommends checking your inbox twice a day.
  2. Cheat. Create filters and use them to automate email processing, but don’t rely too heavily on them. Save specific emails to a folder you can check later.
  3. Use templates. Create custom templates for responding to, delegating, and following up with emails. Use TextExpander to create boilerplate responses that can serve as a starting point for email replies.
  4. Don’t fiddle. Avoid spending time in your inbox doing anything that isn’t processing emails. Don’t worry about creating complex archiving systems, for example, which Merlin calls “meta work”. Focus on keeping emails moving.

SaneBox + TextExpander = Inbox Zero Magic

How much is your time worth? We think it’s pretty valuable, and through the power pair of email management apps like SaneBox and TextExpander, you can take your time back so you can focus on the things in your business that are most important. There are a few types of emails that come into your inbox, and tools can help you get through all of them quickly: 

Important Emails

These are the ones that need attention right away. Take the time with these: delegate the ones that aren’t in your lane, answer the ones that need a response, and take action on the ones that require action. 

Recurring Emails

You know the email… whether it’s from customers or sales leads, you’re often answering the same questions over and over. Text templating apps like TextExpander can help with this: you can create templated snippets—predefined text and images that can be expanded in any application with a simple keyboard shortcut—that let you rapidly bring up, personalize, and deploy key messages for every repetitive response you may need. 

Non-Urgent Emails That Need Responses 

Implementing SaneBox’s snooze can push non-urgent emails for later, and using TextExpander snippets can help you send personalized responses with just a few keystrokes. 

Unwanted Emails

With SaneBox, spam emails likely won’t ever reach your inbox, and even more importantly, you can unsubscribe from those you don’t want to see anymore with one click. 

Be proactive about managing your inbox

Getting to inbox zero is possible, and having a strategy in place to get there will allow you to spend more time on stuff that really matters—like doing actual work, being with friends and family, or devoting yourself to a hobby.

Inbox zero isn’t a goal you work towards: it’s a habit. You have to consistently work to maintain it and email management and productivity tools can help you get more efficient quickly and easily. 

Learn more about TextExpander and SaneBox and how they can help you reach Inbox Zero zen through templates and shortcuts that will give you your time back so you can spend it where it matters most: growing your business.