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Zero is the Magic Number

Achieving Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero – before I get stuck in to helping you get there, let’s just confirm what it actually is! Simply put, ‘Inbox Zero’ is the management of your e-mail in order to keep your inbox empty, or very nearly empty at all times – it should and does prevent a back log of undealt with e-mails and has absolutely transformed my professional working life – I finally have time to do what I set out to do each day rather than spending the majority of it addressing e-mails.

So, when you’re waking up to literally 100’s of e-mails a day, and spending every spare minute trying to respond to, flag or file e-mails how do can you achieve this, and how can you ensure business critical e-mails don’t go unanswered? Let me guide you through 5 simple steps to Inbox Zero.

Step 1 – Set up four folders

Most e-mail clients be it MS Outlook, Mac Mail or any other mailbox will allow you to set up some folders. So here are the four folders that I have set up:

  • Action
  • File
  • Read
  • Hold

Step 2 – Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe

If you’re anything like me, over the years you’ll have subscribed to all sorts of e-mails, some without even knowing it, be it LinkedIn groups, Groupon, or a retailer that you bought from once 6 years ago! These e-mails clog up your inbox, and either you spend hours clicking delete, or they just sit there unread an undealt with. Now is the time to unsubscribe to these e-mails and delete the unread ones sitting in your inbox!

I am now going to assume that the remaining emails that you subscribe to, are going to be news or blog articles that you hope to find time to read at a later stage.

Therefore you now have two options:-

  • Set up a new rule for all of your subscription emails to be sent to your “read” folder. OR
  • You can use the new Hootlet Synchronization Extension, and have all RSS feeds directed to there so that they do not even touch your email. (Here is the video from Hootsuite to explain what I mean).

Step 3 – Immediately implement the 2 min golden rule

This is where those folders you set up in Step 1 come in to play. The golden rule is, if answering the email is going to take you more than 2 mins to reply, then you need to move it to one of your four folders.:-

  • Action – to action later today.
  • File – emails that need to be kept, but filed elsewhere
  • Read – perhaps it’s a long email that needs your attention, or it is an email that is of interest to you but you can easily read it and reply later.
  • Hold – Sometimes you are waiting for a response from someone before you can reply.

Step 4 – Turn your emails off

Now you’re going to need to try and kill the desire to have your e-mail client open all day, once you’ve dealt with the e-mails that need dealing with – close it down! Easier said than done, but it is achievable. Top Tip! Check your emails once every hour, and then immediately turn them off once you’ve actioned them and have a clear inbox.

Step 5 – Clear your folders each day

This is part of my morning routine now, each morning, after I have written my to do list for the day, I simply clear each folder as much as I can. It also acts as an incentive to chase people or get those horrible frogs eaten (If you have no idea what I mean when I say “eat that frog” then check out Brian Tracey’s book called “Eat that Frog”.

So that is the five steps to inbox zero.

If you are into productivity then I would recommend also reading a “How waking up early enriched my life” which you can find here:

Also watch out for my upcoming free eBook, the top tools to help you be more productive.

Tel: 01604 726758 or Email:

About the author:

Julia Doherty, from Green Umbrella Marketing Limited. I am a total social media and digital marketing junkie! My focus is on making a difference to SME's and also independent recruitment agencies. Giving them those all important lightbulb moments that will really enhance their business.