Email is a great tool for staying updated on a lot of things, but the problem is that it behaves like that inflatable thingy that you punch and then pops back up again. Knock it down once, and it comes back with a vengeance. Like, if I respond to, say, three emails, after a short period of time, you can bet there’ll be four new emails (or more) for me to read and send replies to.
Emails can literally take over our lives; we can spend so much time reading and then replying to all of them. When we’re working, doing our whole routine, it prevents us from getting to what we truly need to accomplish more quickly. According to Arkadium co-founder and president, Jessica Rovello, “Email gives people a form of business attention-deficit disorder, so that whatever comes into your inbox trumps anything else you’re working on.”
This must have been the observation of productivity guru Merlin Mann—that’s why he formulated the Inbox Zero approach, the goal of which is to keep the inbox empty (or at least almost empty) at all times. People are always so tied to the number of unopened emails in their inboxes, and they simply have that need to get to these emails even if there are more important things to take care of.
The Inbox Zero approach doesn’t mean we should ignore our emails and delete them as they come—that’s likely going to get us in bigger trouble, business-wise. This approach is all about the smart management of emails so we can be done with them really quickly. This way, we can focus on what truly matters to our business, which is what our priority should be—not answering emails.
Also, Inbox Zero directs great value toward designating time for answering emails. It’s best to not make it the first thing to do, for surely there are more important things than messages delivered through email. If a message is urgent and super-important, there are more effective ways of getting them to us, so emails can definitely wait until we’ve gotten around to work essentials.
Productivity experts also advise taking care of emails during free time throughout the workday and not really treating them as part of the daily tasks. Quickly delete unimportant messages, sift through those from VIP senders and then respond in a concise manner. If there’s a need to be formal with replies, use templates as guides for creating responses.
All in all, Inbox Zero is about putting us back on track with our daily business activities and giving valuable time back so we can be more productive and efficient in targeting our business goals.
The 5 processes for email #inboxzero suggests are…
Delete – This means it has no place in your life whatsoever
Archive – Mann suggests only one, but we normally have multiple “archive” folders split into projects for easier searching
Delegate – Can you get someone else to do this? Then put that process in action and make yourself a reminder task to chase up at a later date
Respond – If you can respond within 2-3minutes, do it now! Use short succinct emails of 5 sentences.
Do – This is a sort-of respond, but it might not mean hitting reply. This “do it now” is about making a task in your task list, calendarising that meeting, or putting a reminder in your phone to prompt you to action something later.
Defer – This is the option for those emails you can’t delegate or respond to straight away. This could be based on external factors, outside work, or if it will take longer than 5 minutes to respond. This should be moved to a “to respond” folder, DigiEnable’s are called “Actions Needed”. This is still email based, however this may also include use of your task lists, calendars or customer management systems for follow-up.
The most important thing we’ve learnt from InboxZero, is asking yourself for each email in your box “Where next? Where should it live forever?” And “Process!!!!”
The only emails in your inbox, should be the unread ones. When you hit that smiling sun on Gmail, or grinning mailbox on Yahoo (yeah, did you know they have those when you’re inbox is empty?), it’s time to get on with the rest of making the most of your day.
The best line from Merlin Mann, sums it up… “don’t let your Blackberry turn into exploding cats”.