Your inbox (especially your email inbox) is a touchy subject for most people. Everyone assumes that they get more emails than the next person, or that their situation is just a little more busy, but let me tell you: organizing your inboxes (especially your email inbox) will benefit you in the long run.
There are many methods to maintain inbox zero, but here are 3 principles behind the many methods in order for you to keep all your inboxes at a healthy level.
1. Don’t worry about having a perfectly empty inbox
Although this seems to go against the topic at hand, your first step towards inbox zero should be to not stress over a single email or task in your inbox. The reality is to keep a true inbox zero, you have to be watching your inboxes constantly, which is very unproductive. This leads to number 2…
2. Have a schedule where you filter through your inboxes
Whether you choose to go through your tasks inbox twice a day, and your email once, or whether you choose to check all your inboxes at the end of the day, or some other method, having a specific time set aside will help you conquer your inboxes like nothing else. Having time set aside will not only relieve your stress (because you know it’ll be dealt with), but it’ll help your inbox actually stay empty regularly because you are dealing with the things that come in rather than sweeping them under the rug.
3. Have a workflow to process your inbox
Part of the reason people never end up filtering through their inboxes is because they don’t have a filter to put them through. If you are to stay on top of your inboxes, you have to have a predetermined plan on how you are going to handle the onslaught of emails, tasks, etc. For me, almost all of my emails end up as a task in Asana, as an event on my calendar, or they are something I respond to/act on immediately.
By knowing that I have a plan on how to respond to all of my emails brings a lot of confidence when I approach my inbox. So whether I have 20, 50, or 500, I can go through and process them based on the “act, schedule, delegate, or archive” method of processing. Some emails literally take 5 seconds to reply to and be done with and as I’ve written before, it’s always best to reply to email as you read it the first time. These are acted upon. Others are scheduled onto Asana or my calendar. Additional emails become delegated by forwarding it onto someone else, and lastly, there are some emails that are merely informational where I sometimes archive it to Evernote for some things, or I merely archive it in my email client itself.
I hope these principles help you figure out your best method of dealing with the onslaught of things we receive. If you have additional thoughts or ideas on the subject, I’d love to hear them!