Ahh, the dreaded inbox.
If you're reading this, your inbox is probably out of control. You might have thousands of emails that have been sitting there for months, or a backlog of subscription emails that you haven’t even looked at.
So, where do you even start when your inbox is such a mess?
Getting to inbox zero (and staying there) is going to take some work. You need to clear the backlog and then think about smart ways to reduce the clutter going forward.
Here’s your step-by-step action plan:
Set up rules and filters to automate your inbox
Automations change the game when it comes to a well-managed inbox.
A good example of this is if you regularly receive a specific email (perhaps a report of some kind), which you always manually forward on to another team member.
A great solution in this scenario is setting up a filter or rule where these emails are automatically forwarded to the team member that needs it, and then archived from your inbox.
We’re all guilty of subscribing to newsletters that we never read.
These emails clog up your inbox, leaving you feeling overwhelmed at the sheer number of messages you have to get through.
Going through manually and hitting unsubscribe would take hours and isn’t a productive use of time, so consider using a service like unroll.me, Unlistr or Unsubscriber, which allow you to unsubscribe from these newsletters and promotional emails with just a tap.
Another efficient option here if you don’t want to use a third-party tool or app is to sort your emails by sender, meaning that all of your subscription emails will be grouped together. From here it’ll be easy to hit unsubscribe on one, and then select the others from that sender and delete them.
It’s not only newsletter subscriptions that can clog up your inbox, many tools and apps that you use every day also send you unnecessary emails. For example, your chat tool or time tracking tool might send you a weekly report, or an email every time you’re tagged in something by default. In this case, you need to go into the settings for that tool and update your email notification settings accordingly.
Archive, archive, archive
With an inbox that has thousands of unread emails, sometimes you just need to draw a line in the sand and say “anything before THIS DATE is going to be archived”.
Why? Having emails sitting in your archive is really no different to having them sit in your inbox, in that you can still search for them using your email’s search function.
What does make a difference though is not seeing them in your inbox anymore.
So, bulk select those emails and send them to the archive. They’ll still be there if you need them, but your inbox will be well on its way to being cleared.
Get rid of your folder structure
Sounds crazy, right? You're probably filing emails away into all sorts of different folders for safe keeping. We're here to tell you that you don't need to do any of that.
In the past the folder structure was necessary, as search functions on email hosts were unreliable at best. As the search function has improved over the years, it’s easier to archive everything and just search by keyword, sender or date when you need to.
By keeping your folder structure you’re just delaying the decision on what to do with each email – don’t make it harder for yourself! Ditch the folders and get to archiving.
So there you have it, our top four tips for getting yourself back to inbox zero. Automate, unsubscribe, archive and simplify, then get back to spending your time on more important things.
They key to maintaining your success moving forward? The Four D method. With every email that lands in your inbox, you're going to do one of four things:
Delete it – many of the emails you receive can be deleted the moment you see them. Don't leave these sitting in your inbox just in case their contents might come in useful.
Do it – if you can deal with it in less than two minutes, get it done straight away. There's no point putting this task off and leaving it sitting in your inbox for later.
Delegate it – if you can't begin work on the email immediately, consider delegating it to another person in your team. Want to learn more about delegation? We cover this topic in detail here.
Defer it – if none of the above applies to the email (it can't be deleted, done in 2 minutes, or delegated), you need to defer it. Set yourself a reminder to revisit this email after completing any important tasks that you're working on.
A virtual assistant will also be able to help you reach your goal of inbox zero, and manage the running of your inbox long-term. Ready to chat about how a VA could help? Reach out for a no-obligation chat with our team.