You and your inbox need to talk.
No doubt, the two of you are codependent.
Yet, you don’t like each other.
Your inbox is offended because you may visit it very often, but never seem to be motivated to really pay attention to all the information it has to offer.
And you are constantly annoyed by exactly this killing overload of information your inbox bombards you with day in day out.
This has to change.
You can’t drive your business without dealing with emails.
But, you have to stop your ever-growing inbox to sabotage your productivity.
This inbox bullying your working day has to be brought back into its original role: A handy tool to serve you and to play by your rules, rather than on its own encroaching terms.
If you want to be the boss over an everyday clean and empty inbox, this post gives you the most effective tactics to get there!
Why inbox zero means far more than clever email management
How many emails are currently lying dormant in your inbox?
A few hundred? A few thousand?
Before I became boss over my email account, I had a few thousand (un)read emails in my inbox.
I thought I’d keep them for that Sunday afternoon when I will find the time to wade through them. Until then, I just ignore them.
But your mind doesn’t ignore them.
Your mind carries your overloaded inbox through every single day of your working life like a legacy you just can’t get rid of.
Your mind reminds you over and over again that you just can’t manage to keep up with your emails.
Your mind notices that you feed your inner procrastination monster every single day with even more emails accumulating for that very Sunday afternoon…
That’s an ideal course of how a very harmful procrastination habit is installed and maintained.
A real bad habit that affects one’s overall performance much harder than he ever dares to acknowledge to himself.
You can’t isolate your email procrastination. Sooner or later, it will win over you and dominate other areas of your life too.
So let’s start with the first step to getting you out of this vicious circle!
1. A clean inbox starts with scheduling your email activities
What’s your inbox check interval? Every 5 to 10 minutes? Maybe a bit more or less?
However often you check for new emails, chances are you do it far too often!
What’s it worth to be exact to the second up to date with your inbox if you don’t get your work done as a consequence?
Your success in business depends on your constant everyday high-quality output.
But excellent output is not created in an atmosphere of steady interruptions.
So don’t wait any longer and kick the habit of checking your emails several times an hour!
Instead, schedule the time you dedicate to your inbox. For example, set one time slot in the morning and another one in the evening.
It sure feels uneasy in the beginning. The fear of missing out on something essential will be all over you.
But over time, you will realize that spending less time in your inbox won’t cause Armageddon.
And gradually your fear of missing out on something will be replaced with the joy of getting used to working in a nice focused flow with great accomplishments at the end of each work day:)
2. Apply the one-touch principle
How many shelf warmer do you breed in your inbox?
You know, those emails you look at once, twice or even a dozen times without proceeding them?
I’ve been a pro in hoarding those emails…
And when I came across the one-touch principle, I couldn’t imagine that it’s possible to deal with certain tasks in a one-touch way.
But it is possible. In terms of emails, you just have to become good at one thing to make it work: Categorizing.
To get you out of this “what-when-why-who shall I do with this email” circle, you simply have to quickly scan each email and decide whether it’s an informational or actionable type of message.
Let’s see how you one-touch deal with informational emails first.
3. Delete or archive informational emails
Informational emails are easy to handle – you read them to delete them. One-touch done.
Don’t like to delete?
Still in the “save for later reference” mode?
Okay. Then I’d like you to honestly answer this question:
To how many of your “saved for later reference” emails have you actually ever returned to?
I know, it’s a sneaky question. But since it exposed my (and many other people’s) troublesome delete-phobia, it’s a very helpful one:)
Make it a habit to done-delete emails. There’s no better way to quick and easy drop ballast every day:)
And if you really have VIP informational emails in your inbox, just read them to then archive them. Done.
4. Execute, delegate or schedule actionable emails
Actionable emails have been a huge portion of the shelf warmer in my inbox.
I thought it’s best to keep them in the inbox until I find the time to take action on them.
Some of them were waiting in vain for my actions for more than a year…
The best one-touch procedure for actionable emails is to:
- find out if the required action is your or a team members task
- if it’s a team members job: delegate it right away
- if it’s your own task: evaluate how much time it would take to execute
- if it’s a matter of just a couple of minutes: do it right away
- if it’s a time-consuming task: schedule it
Following this procedure, you will always get your actionable emails out of your inbox with only one touch:)
5. Unsubscribe from newsletters you collect (but never read)
Yes I know, “it’s for someday!” you say.
It’s for the very Sunday afternoon again.
That fictive Sunday afternoon that by now has a designated workload of several weeks in the queue because, for an unfortunate series of events, it still hasn’t occurred yet.
I thought it was a good idea to subscribe to almost any influencers newsletter within my niche. To always keep me up to date, to learn from other marketers funnels, etc.
But, it’s absolutely impossible to keep track of dozens of newsletters! And collecting them all for a someday-purpose is simply fooling yourself at the cost of an exploding waiting list in your inbox.
That’s why it’s best to check what newsletters you really read. Reduce your subscriptions to these, which are at best not more than a handful of newsletters to handle.
And don’t forget that newsletters are informational emails.
Hence, you read them to delete them!
6. Stop fighting with your folder structure
It’s so easy to over-organize your email account.
You start grouping emails in folders, and you can’t stop adding new folders since there is always an email you don’t have a suiting category for.
In the end, you lose track of all your categories. And since it takes too much time to find a proper folder, you keep your emails in the inbox…
Again, not keep but delete should become the default final step in your new one-touch-procedure for your emails.
And for the ones you really need for later reference it’s best to simply archive them.
It’s okay to have a couple of folders that really make sense and prove themselves useful for your daily activities.
But for the rest of your need-to-save emails aim for no folder structure. Just move them to the archive. You’ve got the search function to easily find anything back in there.
7. Make use of tools to conquer your inbox
There are many tools available that can help you make your daily inbox actions a lot easier and even fun.
Unroll.Me can help you to quick and easy get rid of all the subscription clutter in your inbox:
It lists all your subscriptions, and you can unsubscribe within that list with just a click. A real time saver, especially, when you have collected lots of subscriptions.
Another great feature of it is the rollup: a hand-picked list of your favorite newsletters put together in one email that will be sent to you to your most preferred time.
If you use shared accounts, for example for your support, then Hiver is an excellent email management tool to declutter your inbox and collaborate your tasks within your team:
You can easily assign emails of shared inboxes to a team member and mark them done, all within your Gmail inbox. You can also make shared notes which will lower down the amount of incoming internal emails.
To balance the “traffic” in your inbox, you can use the snooze feature. It allows you to turn off your inbox for certain emails to come through at better suiting times you can define.
And if you feel strained all over after all this inbox fuss, then Email Game could be a great tool to fun-guard your way into new inbox habits:
Your inbox becomes part of a game, and you collect credits for dealing with your emails fast, deleting them, archiving them, taking action on them. It’s not only fun but also a great way to reward yourself for sticking to your new habit on a daily basis:)
Of course, there are many other useful tools; HubSpot has created a great list of tools to declutter your inbox.
8. But what about all the old junk in my inbox?
Happy zero inbox days are yet to come, you got everything at your hands to start with a wonderful day 1 of your new inbox habits!
The only trouble left is… the cluttered past in your inbox.
Please skip the thought of reviewing all your inbox emails on that Sunday afternoon that will never take place.
Pull yourself together and get rid of that old stuff by declaring bankruptcy.
If you’re really brave, you just delete the clutter, knowing that each one of the people who’ve sent you these emails will most likely still have a copy of it anyway.
If you can’t bear to delete that bulk, move it to the archive, and it is out of your sight!
9. Celebrate your clean inbox every day!
Never forget to celebrate the small and big wins of your day!
Zero inbox is definitely a big win you can be very proud of every single day again.
Your new inbox habits will not only make your working days much more smooth-flowing and productive. Your habits will also supercharge your self-esteem since you are the one in control over your tools and time, not the other way around!
I’d love to hear your story! Please share your inbox zero progress in the comments below. Any questions or roadblocks you are facing? Just drop me a line below!