Inbox Zero

Stop Using Email Like A Caveman



Inbox Zero




Want the TL;DR version? Click here. Okay, for the rest of you, here we go:

If you want to be effective in your job or even maybe your life, you need to be effective at email. But it can be maddening! You're getting floods of emails constantly, how do you keep them straight? How do you not get stressed? How do make sure you're getting everyone the answers they need? How do you make sure you don't forget something?

Enter: Inbox Zero, an email management strategy that can work with pretty much any email provider.

You before Inbox Zero

Santa Drowning In Mail

You after Inbox Zero**

Baby Ninja

**Note: inbox zero will not magically make you able to do a backflip

How Does it Work?

Inbox Zero is pretty simple. The basic idea is that at any given point in time, your inbox should contain 0 emails. That's the goal: zero, zilch, zip. We want no emails 0 our inbox! Before you freak out, the below concept will easily help you achieve this.

The first thing that we do is we start thinking about our emails in 3 distinct categories:

  1. Emails that are actionable immediately.
  2. Emails that are non-actionable.
  3. Emails that are actionable, but not immediately (actionable at some future point).

Note: By "actionable" here, we mean emails that require you to do something with them (or in other words to take some action).

Then change your behavior:

  1. Archive any email that is non-actionable.
  2. Archive any email that you just responded to.
  3. Snooze any email that are actionable at some future point.

Deep Dive

If at this point you get it, no need to read further. There's just more juicy details below.

Emails that are actionable immediately

Really, this is the only kind of email that you should actually be concerned with. These are the emails that require you to do something. So what do you do? Take the necessary action. Respond with the answer to someones question, etc.

Once you've done this these emails are now considered part of "Non-actionable" category. Why? Well... because you've just taken the action that was needed, and the ball is no longer in your court.

Emails that are non-actionable

These emails are done :confetti_ball:. They could be spam emails, marketing emails, or even the emails we just responded to in from the first category. We still want to keep them around for historical purposes, so we don't delete them, however we need to get them out of our inbox. What do we do?

We ARCHIVE them. This gets them out of your inbox, and out of your face!

Don't know how to archive an email? Here, this may help.

Emails that are actionable, but not immediately

A lot of the time these are the worst offenders for cluttering up our inbox and creating stress:

We get an important looking email, we open it and read through it only to find that it is important, but not until next week, or some time in the future where we need to do something (respond/perform some task and then let someone know, etc.). So now we have this email, which is marked as "read" sitting in our inbox, and slowly being buried alive. Quite naturally this creates stress in a normal human. We need to make a mental note, or some sort of note to make sure we don't forget about that email until next Wednesday or whenever.

This is where your email tool will help you out. Any modern email service will provide a "snooze" functionality, which effectively allows you to pick a date that you want that email to magically reappear in your inbox, as if it had just been sent to you.

Here's how to do it with Gmail (for real this time).

If your email provider doesn't have a "snooze" feature, well... I'm sorry, you're pretty much out of luck. When we have caveman tools we have to live like cavemen. I'd suggest switching email providers at this point.

TL;DR / Conclusion

Think about our emails in 3 distinct categories:

  1. Emails that are actionable immediately.
  2. Emails that are non-actionable.
  3. Emails that are actionable, but not immediately (actionable at some future point).

Then change your behavior:

  1. Archive any email that is non-actionable.
  2. Archive any email that you just responded to.
  3. Snooze any email that are actionable at some future point.