Email has become an ongoing issue for most people and despite being able to access it just about anywhere any time the problem doesn’t appear to be reducing. It is estimated almost 300 billion emails are sent every day, so although you probably only get a small proportion I expect it is still enough to be a nuisance.
Earlier this year I used Beeminder to encourage me to gradually reduce my inbox from 807 to 0. It took me about 3 months. Now 3 months later my inbox has increased to 142.
Obviously I’ve kept receiving emails, but I’ve lost focus. When I was using Beeminder I knew I would be recording the size of my inbox everyday, so I sorted some. But I stopped after achieving 0. I thought my goal was to reach zero, where really it should have been to have a zero inbox every day.
My tips for achieving and keeping your inbox at zero
Identify the ‘problem’ emails
Sort your inbox by sender and identify who sends you the largest number of emails. Do you read them?
- If yes, why are they still in your inbox? Do the emails contain information you may want to reference later, if so store that content somewhere meaningful where you are likely to find it in the future e.g. suitable email folder, word processing document, Evernote
- If no, do you look forward to reading them? Can you get the information via a different communication route e.g. subscribe to blog, facebook.
Act on spam
Have you blocked the addresses of all the spam emails your receive? If yes, check whether there is a higher level of blocking provided by your email or internet provider
Maintain your inbox as a ‘to be processed hub’
Your inbox is for unread emails, so you need a process for dealing with emails. I recommend keeping the processing as simple as possible so you remember it and can later find emails.
If there is an action in the email I add it to my tasklist in Evernote and then either file the email under to action or delete it. If it something to keep I move it to my processed email folder.
You need to develop trust in yourself to make decision about emails.
Make a game of it
If you use google mail there is a real email game you can play. However, if you use another programme, like me, you need to develop your own game / challenge. My frequent ones are
- when I check new emails I challenge myself to empty the inbox of all emails from the previous day / week / fortnight
- I aim to have my inbox smaller each night than in the morning
And it is working because by the time I’ve finished writing this post I’d reduced my inbox down to 81 messages.
Do you keep a zero inbox? Do you think it helps you productivity?