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  • Writer's pictureMarie Robertson-King

The Elusive Inbox Zero

Updated: Dec 31, 2020

Inbox Zero … it’s something we all strive to achieve, but not many actually attain it. There’s something special about the feeling of satisfaction of deleting or filing away that last email in your inbox. It’s good reason for a glass of champagne over here at Empress HQ!

So, here are some tips to help you achieve it on a regular basis (and maybe even weekly or daily if you’re an inbox zero superstar!)

Have a system – each email that lands in your inbox needs to either be ‘done’, ‘delegated’ or ‘deleted’. If you need to action the email and it takes less than two minutes – just do it and it get off your plate. If it’s going to take longer than two minutes, flag it and put it on your to do list with a realistic completion date. If there’s no action required by you either ‘archive’ or ‘delete’ the email.

Archive instead of filing – don’t create folders for your emails; there’s really no need (especially with GMail, which is hosted by the most popular search engine in the world!) Read the email, categorise it as above, and if it doesn’t require further action, archive it. The search functions in most email clients these days are great, so save yourself the time and just archive your emails instead.

Be conscious – when marketing emails hit your inbox, consider if you really want to see it. If you find yourself not reading emails time and time again, unsubscribe right there on the spot! Only keep the marketing emails you really want to read. I sometimes forward emails to my personal email address to read later too.

Set up canned responses – Email templates (Outlook) will help you keep your inbox in check too. Set up canned responses (GMail) for the things you find yourself writing over and over again and then use them to get those emails dealt with when they arrive in your inbox.

Set up filters – Consider setting up filters to deal with emails as they arrive. For example, have a filter that files emails that you are cc’d into, or from a specific sender. That way you can go looking for the information when you need it rather than it cluttering up your inbox.

Use tags – use your email client tagging system (GMail) in your inbox – this will allow you to quickly see where you’re at with your emails left in your inbox.

Set time aside – have time set aside in your calendar at the end of each week to deal with the emails sitting in your inbox before you switch off for the weekend. There may be items that are awaiting responses from other people, these can be ignored until you get the information you require to complete the task.

So there you have it … hopefully these tips will have you reaching inbox zero on a regular basis. The more you do it, the easier it becomes!

Now, if you have a bazillion emails sitting in my inbox right now and DO NOT have time to sort them out … I hear you!

What I recommend is:

  • choose a date in the past (maybe a month ago)

  • archive every email before that date (you can always search for it later)

  • go through what’s left and categorise them using the steps above

That will give you a clean slate to start your new and improved email management system!

Let me know how you go in the comments below or feel free to get in touch!




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Marie is a Virtual Assistant based in Perth

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