Have you ever heard of Inbox Zero? Inbox Zero can be defined as ‘a rigorous approach to Email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty, or almost empty’.
I had seen Inbox Zero, or more specifically the hashtag #inboxzero used for several months. I even looked into it briefly, but put it to onside as an unrealistic goal.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always tackled my Email inbox. I use the flag system as a reminder of Emails that I need to follow-up on and even blogged about it previously. My aim has always been to keep my inbox at under 100, and I even got it down closer to 50 a few times. My inbox was purely for Emails that either I hadn’t read or responded to. I always thought this was pretty good. But I kept on seeing the #inboxzero hashtag and realised I would have to give it a go!
So I decided to really aim for Inbox Zero.
First things first. Anyone who sends and receives Emails will realise just how difficult reaching Inbox Zero is because, whether you send Emails or not, they just keep on coming.
I quickly realised that the number of Email I sent, had a direct correlation to the number of Emails I received. Sounds simple, right? Send less Emails to receive less back. But that didn’t stop the flood of Emails coming in, it just slowed them down a little. I also realised that I used my inbox as an action list, so even if I had responded to an Email, I kept it in my inbox as a reminder to chase it up if I hadn’t a response. This approach was futile when working towards Inbox Zero!
Despite really wanting to reach Inbox Zero, I am not sure I really ever thought I would be able to genuinely reach it. But I one week I recognised that I had managed to naturally reduce by Inbox Box down to 40 and that #inboxzero was within touching distance! And so it happened, on August 23rd 2019, I managed to reach Inbox Zero.
I have to say, the satisfaction was immense! But it also meant that I had dealt with some of those Emails that were always in the ‘difficult to deal with’ box. I wasn’t able to postpone dealing with them and just to deal with them. This was a great outcome in every way. I felt truly in control of my Inbox (for the first time……..ever).
I was on annual leave for a four day stint over the following few weeks, so I decided to do an impromptu test to see how many Emails came through, by not dealing with any Emails over this period at all. It showed the following:
217 new Emails over 4 working days
So I set to work on dealing with the Emails and was able to quickly reduce it:
52 deleted straight away
20 filed straight away
19 further deleted
22 further filed away
This left me with 132 Emails in my Inbox (113 of them new). Interesting results, right? Nearly half of the Emails I receive I could deal with really quickly. But not necessarily a surprising result. I quickly worked through my Inbox over the next few days and reduced it significantly.
The real litmus test next. Would I keep to Inbox Zero? Well, yes and no. I haven’t managed a regular zero inbox, but I have kept it generally very low – less than 5 most weeks. For any Inbox Zero purists, I am not sure this counts, but I am really pleased!
So, in summary, here are my top Inbox Zero tips:
- Use the 2 D’s as a guide – Deal with it, or Delete it!
- Use your diary for reminders instead of keeping Emails as reminders
- Send less Emails out – the less you send, the less you receive
- Challenge the source of some of the Emails you receive – do you really need copying in to everything?
- Use the traditional methods of communication, like phone and face-to-face!
So that’s my Inbox Zero journey to-date. I would love to hear your Email journey – please comment below!