Inbox Zero: The Only Sensible Way To Manage Emails

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Inbox zero

It is the dream of many to have an organized inbox. I too used to think it was a dream that could never be fulfilled. Just like you, I used to believe that as my inbox kept growing, managing my inbox is time consuming and I just couldn’t organize it. Anyone who constantly used their inbox as a to-do list or tasks planner was destined to meet this fate. But what if there was a better way? What if I told you that keeping your inbox clean wasn’t a pipe dream but something that was actually possible? 

The concept of Inbox

In GTD terminology, the inbox is a broad concept and it includes all the things you have collected in different ways. Actually, the GTD Inbox may include several inboxes, even a physical tray where you put all the papers.

In the context of the e-mail client or online email account, your Inbox is the place where all new messages are received unless a rule redirects them to a different folder, address, or program.

What is Inbox zero?

So, you’re probably thinking, “What’s this Inbox zero thing I keep hearing about? And why do they say it’s not really about the number of emails in your inbox?”

Well, that’s because the whole point of Inbox zero isn’t the number of emails in your inbox—it’s the idea that you have a plan for your email, and that you’re taking control of it! That’s why they call it “zero,” because technically, it means that to reach inbox zero you have no emails in your inbox.

But what if instead of zero, you have a bunch of emails in your inbox that are all labeled and categorized so you can easily find them later? You’d still technically be at Inbox zero, but the goal would be to quickly retrieve all those emails when you need them.

That way, you can get to them when you’ve got time to sort through them. Merlin Mann came up with this idea because he was tired of just having a bunch of unorganized emails in his inbox and wanted to make better use of his time.

In other words, Inbox zero is an approach to email management 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. The productivity expert 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”

It is the “amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox”. Mann seems to have realized that your Inbox is a source of stress and distraction. It is the home of unimportant tasks, the source of all email anxiety.

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 to get to Inbox Zero?

If you want to achieve Inbox Zero, you have to 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.

Beyond the email, Task Zero With Akiflow:

So, now you know everything about Inbox Zero. It’s great. We’re big fans. But it only goes so far.

Inbox Zero in Gmail is great for keeping your emails organized and your inbox clean. But what about the actual work you have to do? The emails you need to respond to. The tasks you need to complete. How are we supposed to process everything that needs our attention if we can’t even find it all in one place?

We’re here to fix that problem with Akiflow, a new app that automatically imports your emails and tasks from Gmail, Asana, Trello, Notion, and many more into a universal inbox so you can see ALL of your work at once—and get things done more efficiently than ever before!

Universal Inbox

Takeaway

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.

The idea behind Inbox Zero is pretty simple: we’re constantly flooded with new emails, and if we keep our inboxes open, there will never be a point when we’re truly done with a project. The power of Inbox Zero has been proven in various studies, but it’s no secret. Since the beginning of civilization (or at least since the dawn of email), people have been trying to find ways to keep their inboxes under control.