What is this mystical state of being that people call ‘Inbox Zero’? Is it real, or is it like a unicorn, the Loch Ness monster, or sharks – only existing in fiction, dreams and imagination. Well, I can tell you from personal experience that ‘Inbox Zero’ is real, it is achievable, and it is fantastic.
As a Manager and Business Owner, my goal is to end each day, with a totally clear inbox. Not one email in there. Empty. No outstanding tasks left to do, so the following day can be started fresh. It’s not always possible, but more often than not – it is.
To understand how to achieve Inbox Zero, I’ll first need to explain my methodology in how I handle emails:
The first and key point is that an email doesn’t leave my Inbox until it has been actioned and any tasks to do with it are completed.
The next rule is you don’t delete anything except SPAM that you know you’ll never be interested in. Everything else is not deleted, but filed. A good system of folders to file your emails into, will make finding old emails a piece of cake.
Now everyone’s needs are different, but an idea of a good folder (and sub-folder) system might be as follows:
- Awards Entries
- Standards / Regs
- Job A
- Job B
- Key Clients
- Client A
- Client B
- Client C
- Supplier A
- Supper B
- Supplier C
So how do you get to inbox zero? To put it as simply as possible, treat your inbox as a ‘to do’ list. Every email is sitting there for a reason, for you to do something about it. Do not remove it or file it till you have done what you need to do. If it’s a customer asking for a quote – do the quote, reply, and file the email. If it’s an advertising offer, assess the offer, make a decision, reply, and file the email. If it’s about an award you’d like to enter, start filling out the entry paperwork, when you’re done, reply (or lodge the entry online), and file the email. If it’s a customer complaint, address the issue, reply (or call), and file the email.
If you’re too busy for any of your emails, try and delegate it to someone else in your team. If you do this – there’s two options. Option one: you trust they will do it, so after forwarding to them, you file it. Option two: you think you’ll need to follow them up, remind them, check it was done. In that case, don’t file it. Leave it in your inbox as a reminder to check with the person you delegated to.
By now you should be catching my drift. Your inbox is a to do list. As you do the tasks, you file the email and it’s no longer on your list. It is really great for productivity and time management.