Inbox Zero: the Only Sensible way to Manage Emails

2 min read

Inbox zero

Emails are our new reality. Do you have an organized inbox? Well, your wish has come true in a way because the Inbox Zero approach guarantees an empty inbox. Not literally! It does not ask you to delete all your emails and sit tight. Let me explain.

What is it?

Inbox zero is an approach that lies in the process of labeling, categorizing, and classifying your emails to save time and be productive. All your emails are put into neat little folders, and your inbox is now technically empty. But that is not the point of Inbox zero. Merlin Mann, the man behind the whole idea, states:

“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your attention, your life. The “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox – it’s how much of your brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it”

In other words, it is the “amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox”. Mann seems to have realized that external clutter can wreak havoc on the insides and come up with Inbox zero.

Why it’s so important?

Time is everything. But, most of us are guilty of mindless scrolling through our emails. Also, nothing is off-putting like a long list of to-dos, which leads to procrastination for some of us.

An Inbox Zero is the answer to this because having a clear list of to-dos encourages us to get things done and saves time. Many entrepreneurs, executives, influencers, and even students, have vouched for the Inbox zero because it has saved their inboxes!

How can I reach Inbox Zero?

Your inbox can be an Inbox zero if you classify your emails based on these five possible actions.

Option 1: DELETE/ NOT TO DELETE

To complete this step, ask yourself this one important question:

Is the information in the mail useful to you?

·     YES = Archive-it

·     NO = Delete it

Deleting sounds easy, but we often think, re-think and overthink the mails we need to delete. Meanwhile, though archiving appears to be the safe bet, only emails with vital information need to be archived.

Option 2: DELEGATE

Delegating is nothing but “waiting for others.” Not every email that you receive can be acted on all by yourself. So, you can delegate emails that require the input of others.

For example, mails that need approval

Option 3: RESPOND

Responding is just emails that require replies. Of course, you cannot respond to all emails immediately, which is why you need to ask yourself this:

Can I answer in two minutes or less?

·     YES = Reply

·     NO = Defer it

We will discuss more deferring in the next action.

Option 4: DEFER

Deferring means postponing. As mentioned in the previous action, if something would take more than two minutes to respond, you defer it to a later date. In other words, you snooze the mail, like in Gmail. Emails that you delay make up your to-do or “action required” list.

Option 5: DO

Here, you consider if you can act on the email. And you do it IF,

You can complete it in under 2 minutes (Ex. RSVPs for invites)

else,

Defer it for later (Ex. Designing a website for your co-worker)

Now that’s done, let’s look at the general guidelines that Mann lays out for managing your inbox like a pro.

  • Don’t leave your emails on reading. There, I said it. But seriously, once you open a mail, you need to act on it immediately, even if it means deferring it.
  • Check your email several times a day. Mann advises that you check your mail as often as you pee. In this case, you could use Time blocking to set aside a slot to check them.
  • Regular follow-up on your “to-do” or “action required” list is a complete necessity.

In recent years, there has been a lot of hype around the Inbox Zero approach because of its efficacy and easy-to-use nature. The satisfaction that comes with organizing your inbox is undeniable as well. Though people sometimes mistake gaining control of one’s inbox for one’s life, the Inbox Zero is a step in the right direction.

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