How to Achieve Inbox Zero
Your inbox can be a dangerous spot, and important items can very easily get lost. The goal for a lot of people is to attain “Inbox Zero”, where your main inbox for your email is usually empty (at least by the end of the day), and you feel much more on top of your communication skills. When you are staring at thousands of unread messages though, wondering if you will EVER see the day your inbox reaches zero, you can be completely overwhelmed.
We once had a managed IT support client that literally kept every single piece of email they received (including spam, newsletters, and coupons), and stored it all in folders. Your email is a communication tool. It is not meant for file storage. We understand that there are some industries that need to store these messages for a specific number of time, but it doesn’t have to be inside your main inbox! There are also ways to store copies of these communications so they are archived automatically, and you don’t even have to keep them in your personal account.
Let us help you reach the Inbox Zero goal by following some easy steps. Feel free to tackle each step slowly over time, or sit down one day and get it all done. Either way, you will be at Inbox Zero before you know it.
Step 1: Unsubscribe – Using a service like the one provided by unroll.me is a great way to get this accomplished. The website looks through your inbox and finds all of the subscriptions. You are now able to look through all of your subscriptions, and tell unroll.me which ones you want to completely unsubscribe from, and which ones you still want to read. The service will also allow you to roll all of the subscriptions you want to keep into one easy to read email every day. One email that aggregates all of the subscriptions you have, is way easier to manage than a ton of subscriptions to various stores, restaurants and companies.
Step 2: Delete the spam – The easiest thing to get rid of is all of your spam. This includes promotions from companies you frequent, or newsletters you receive. One easy way to delete a lot of these at once, is to do a search for the store name, or the email address that the newsletter comes from. This will filter out all of your other messages leaving only the ones from that particular company. You can then select all of them and hit delete. Do this with each spam message you come across in your inbox. When you find a newsletter, do a quick search for the rest of them, and delete them all at once.
Step 3: Download needed attachments – You can sort your email by size to bring the largest attachments to the top of your inbox. Open each email, and if the attachment is something you need to keep, download it to a folder on your computer, then delete the message. This will help you get a lot of free space on your account in a short amount of time too.
Step 4: Do items that take less than 2 minutes – Now you are ready to tackle the real messages in your inbox. Open each message and determine if something needs to be done with the email. If the task can be accomplished in 2 minutes, just do it right then. With those quick, easy tasks out of the way, you can delete those messages and get them off your plate.
Step 5: Move to do items to a folder – Other to do items may require a lot more time to accomplish. You don’t want to get distracted by projects right now, so go ahead and create a folder in your inbox called ToDo and move items that require action over to that folder. This is not a folder for you to move things to and ignore though! Make sure you check that folder frequently and get those tasks moved over to your real to do list.
Step 6: Move keeper items to a folder – Some emails you will just need to hang on to. We include receipts, orders, license codes, etc in this folder. Creating a folder called ToKeep will help you get those items out of your inbox, but into a place that you will know where to find them. You can even nest folders inside and create one for different clients, one called invoices, one called receipts, and any other keeper category that you could have.
Now your inbox should be AT zero, or pretty close. You can decide what to do with the last remaining items, if there are any. The trick now, is to keep it clean! Move to do items right away to your ToDo folder, move invoices straight to the invoice folder as soon as you receive it. I promise, you won’t miss another important email again!
Eric is the owner and CEO of Protek Support and is a CISSP (Certified Information Systems Security Professional). He graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelors of Science degree in Business with an emphasis in Information Technology (IT). He is an IT Services expert in a variety of technology related fields. Some of these fields include document management software/hardware, enterprise level networking and VoIP phone systems, as well as large scale software implementation projects and the setup of small business networks.