Here’s a little snippet of an email I recently sent to my team:
“I want to get us all back on board the inbox zero train. I honestly believe it’s one of THE most effective things you can do for productivity.”
I sent out this email in the middle of one of our busiest times of the year. Why? Because it was absolutely crucial that no one was wasting a single minute dilly dallying in their inbox.
Inbox zero is a strategy for dealing with even the most insane inbox. It gets mentioned all the time on our daily and weekly check-ins. However, it turned out there was a misconception on my team of what inbox zero actually meant. So I set out to clear up the questions and get us back on the right “train.”
Here’s what I needed to clarify: inbox zero does NOT mean having zero unread emails in your inbox. In means having ZERO emails in your inbox. Yup, zero. It looks like this:
I know what you’re thinking, and yes, getting to inbox zero is waaaaay easier said than done. But if you make it a priority, it’ll become a habit you do almost without thinking. I strongly believe that it should be a priority for everyone, every week. (More on that in a second.)
So in an attempt to get my team to sharpen their inbox zero skills, I put together a guide of best practices to clear their inboxes.
Here’s that guide, copied and pasted for your enjoyment (OK, for your productivity, really):
You should hit INBOX ZERO every week—every day is even better! Mondays are a good day to devote some time to getting to zero.
–> Why inbox zero?
- When your inbox is full, stuff slips through the cracks – you don’t see emails that come in, and you forget to respond to people.
- Mental whitespace: your mental and online workspace feels clean and clear, and you can’t waste time by scanning your emails deciding what to do next, or reading an email yet again that you’ve already read!
- TIO – Touch It Once: TIO is a valuable habit – TIO means if you read an email, respond to it! Sometimes we revisit the same emails over and over, thinking we’ll respond later. Do it now! If you take the time to read, take the time to respond. If you need more time or resources, just respond to the email letting the person know that and when you’ll get back to them.
How to Achieve Inbox Zero!
ARCHIVE EVERYTHING! We need a record of every email sent from our company – so don’t delete, archive.
We don’t get to inbox zero because there are pesky emails that want to live in our inbox – here’s how we deal with each type:
1. A task
Forward it to Wrike [our project management software] with an assignee, due date, and any other info it needs
2. An idea with no clear action plan
Get clarity! Decide whether to put it into action (forward it to Wrike), discard it, or do it in the future (you can assign in Wrike with a much later date, or chat with the Project Manager on future scheduling).
3. An idea/resource that you might want to reference later
4. You’re waiting for someone to get back to you
Sometimes we keep emails in our inbox because we need to hear back from the other person and we don’t want to forget about it – BOOMERANG it instead! [Boomerang is an add-on app that you can enable in Gmail. It allows you to schedule emails to be sent later as well as schedule emails to be resent sent back to you.] Boomerang it for a week later, then archive it.
5. You’ll need to respond, but not quite yet
Maybe you’re still waiting on a piece of information, or maybe you just don’t want to bug them yet. BOOMERANG THAT SHIZZ! Use Boomerang to send you a reminder at an appropriate time. Always err on the side over over-boomeranging. You might want to use it for every email you send when you’re coordinating w/ someone outside of the company (or inside! But if you are using inbox zero, you can’t ever forget to get back to someone)
6. You just don’t know what to do with it
Maybe you don’t know who needs the info, or what to say in response. Reach out and ask for help! Don’t just let it sit there.
Note that Boomerang is an essential tool for achieving inbox bliss – Boomerang early and often!
That’s the guide! It may seem simple but I would put a money-back guarantee on it if this blog post weren’t completely free. :)
If you think your tribe would benefit from this productivity booster, use the share buttons to the left of this post and spread this guide around!
What tricks do you have up your sleeve?
Just because this is how I manage my inbox doesn’t mean it’s the only way! Do you have your own system in place for making sure you don’t miss a thing in your inbox? Do you set aside a specific time in the day for customer questions?
What about all those newsletters (like The Dash) you love reading every week?
Let me know how you hack through your inbox jungle in the comments below!