Three Quick Steps to a Zero Inbox

Tired of wondering if you’re missing something in your email inbox? Believe it or not, that feeling weighs on your subconscious more than you know. Rather than live with anxiety, let’s process those emails and get you to a zero inbox. Yes, that’s right, a zero inbox. Not one email will remain. Is it possible? Yes! In fact, it’s possible to keep a zero inbox which means guilt, worry and stress-free email maintenance. Ready?

Here are three quick steps to implementing a zero inbox:

1) Create a four new folders:

  • @Action – Used to put emails that require a timely response
  • @Someday – Used to put emails that require your attention, but timing is not an issue
  • @Follow Up – You put emails here that you’ve replied to, but it requires that you follow up with someone about the status of the email
  • Archive – This is where all of your processed email will reside. When it’s here, you’re done.

2) Survey your inbox and look for emails that you know require a response. Don’t forget to separate them into what kind of response is required. Drag those into your @Action, @Someday or @Follow-up folders so you can process them later.

3) All emails that remain, select all and move them to your Archive folder.

Now, if you have a lot of emails in your inbox, this is sure to bring a certain level of anxiety—of which will probably make you second guess if you can really do this. You can. If you need to recall a particular email, that’s what your email programs search function is for. Get to know it because it will be your friend.

If you’re one of those people who has a 100 different folders—one for each client, project, person, idea, thought, receipt, etc., I highly recommend that you rid of them all and focus your efforts on using the Archive folder. Why? What makes this system work is your ability to trust your own system. If you can’t remember what folder it’s in, then how will you find it? Sure, you can use your email search function, but then why have the extra folders to comb through? Throw all processed email into your Archive folder and be done with it. Trust me on this one. It’s theraputic.

Now that you have cleaned out your inbox, take a moment to enjoy the mental relief. Go on. Sit back. Take a screenshot and TwitPic it to your friends, family even your mom would love to see what you accomplished.

The beauty of this system is that you know exactly where the emails are that require your response and when so your worry of missing an email are gone. You will be amazed at how much mental energy will be freed up because of zero-inbox.

Before I go, here are some keys to remember:

  • Your inbox is a place to process and sort email. It’s not where you store it.
  • When an email comes in, if you can reply in under two minutes, do it immediately. If not, sort it.
  • Empty your inbox every day. Yes, that means that when you shut down for the day, your inbox is empty.
  • Set aside one day a week to go through your @Someday and @Follow Up folders to make sure out-dated items aren’t piling up. In doing this, you’ll be surprised at how on top of things you’ll feel.
  • DON’T GIVE UP! Even if you get behind, spend an hour and process your inbox accordingly.

Bonus: If you keep email open all day long, that’s what you’ll do all day long. In my experience, when you process offline, you stop the leak of new emails which gives you the time to focus on the emails sitting in your @Action and @Someday folders.

So, do you think you can do it? If you already live zero-inbox, what tips can you offer?

If you like this, you’ll loveThree Quick Steps to Eliminating To-do List Anxiety

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