Is your inbox overflowing with unopened messages, notifications, or emails that you haven’t responded to? This can be a problem for several reasons. Some people find it stressful to see hundreds of unread messages. Which then leads to another problem: losing important information in all the clutter. This could include missing vital notifications or work-related emails, or cost you with delays as you struggle to find information buried in the flood of spam and disorganization.
One solution: a ‘zero inbox!’ Establish a system where important emails are neatly organized and the unnecessary fluff is removed daily. If your inbox has hundreds or thousands of unread messages, this may sound like an impossible task. Fortunately for you, we’ve broken it down into 5 actionable and achievable steps:
1. GET AN OVERVIEW
Your first step is to make a quick assessment of what sorts of emails you receive most often. Are you subscribed to too many unwanted mailing lists? Do you receive a lot of messages concerning your work and you’re worried about missing something important? In that case, see if there’s a particular person or business that most of your messages come from. Once you’ve established any message trends, you can start de-cluttering and organizing.
2. CHOOSE A METHOD
If your inbox isn’t too disorganized, you may be able to devote an hour of your workday to go through everything and reset it back to a clean slate. However, if you’re short on time or you have hundreds of messages, it might be best to break this task down into segments. Either go through a fixed amount of messages every day to catch up, or sort out and discard of the spam first, then the personal messages, then work messages, etc.
3. ORGANIZATION THROUGH APPS OR DIY
Once you’ve gotten rid of all the junk mail, it’s time to sort out your inbox into different categories. There are several apps that can help you with this, including Sortd and Inbox by Google. You can also separate your emails into different folders. Some people devote one folder to personal mail, another for work-related, and a third one for correspondence that needs to be kept long-term. Another great way to effectively organize work emails is to ask the sender to put the topic of the message in the email title. This way you can easily search and find what you need immediately.
4. DEALING WITH SPAM
Spam messages aren’t just advertisements. Many people like to have their cellphone messages or notifications sent to their email. Ask yourself, ‘are these really necessary?’ Cut back on unwanted emails by unsubscribing from mailing lists that you no longer read. Or simply subscribe to a service that delivers your advertisement and news emails all in one digest, once a day. We recommend using UnRoll.Me for this service – added bonus, it’s free.
5. MAINTAINING YOUR ZERO INBOX
The initial sorting out of your email may have taken some time, but maintaining it will be much easier. Just devote a few minutes a day to organizing it and you’ll stay on top of it. Or, if you can’t devote a block of time at the start of the day, do one-minute ‘sprints’ whenever you have a spare moment. Remember, being an organized meeting professional is not about being perfect; it’s about customizing systems, including email, to work for you!