30 Minutes to Inbox Zero
I know what you're thinking, but inbox zero is not a unicorn - it actually does exist, and you can achieve it way easier than you think.
At the moment, I'm managing four work inboxes - and getting bombarded with emails - so email zero has become my new best friend. I mean, I don't literally have zero in my inboxes, but there are rarely more than a dozen things sitting there - and it's so easy when I need to jump back in to that role.
Cleaning out you inbox is a bit like cleaning out your car - you put up with the mess and ickyness for ages, always thinking 'I so need to clean that, but I so don't have time now'. And then you actually do it, and every time you get in your lovely spiffy car, you think 'Oooh, pretty! Why didn't I do this ages ago?'
Well today, lets clear out your emails, get rid of the icky stuff, and you'll have a clean and shiny inbox... you might even say something silly like 'Oooh, pretty!' every time you open your emails (don't stress, I won't judge :).
This is my personal method for doing email zero - for all my Girl Friday jobs as well as the blog. It won't take long - only about 30 minutes, and at the end, I'll list my top tips for maintaining it too :)
Six easy steps to achieving inbox zero:
First things first, set up your filing system. Mine is super simple: I just archive everything. If I need it, I'll search for it. Easy. Sometimes though, it's good to have folders - to split correspondence between clients or projects. Either way is fine, but if you do have folders keep them simple - the more complicated the filing system, the harder it is to maintain.
If your inbox is massively out of control, just grab everything over 2 months old and archive it. If you're using files, stick it all in a folder called 'Old Stuff'. Or, if you're sure there's nothing important in there, just delete it. Either way, none of it is current, and it's not worth spending hours going through it all. If you need it, you can search for it, and if it's super important, I'm sure they'll send you another email!
Delete the junk. You know what it is - the newsletters you never read, the chain store promos, the mailing lists you can't even remember signing up for. A quick way to get rid of it all is to search by sender; this brings up every email from them on one page and you can just select a page at a time to delete (or Ctrl + A to select them all in Outlook.) This makes a huge job really quick, so go through and delete as much as you can.
Jump over to your Junk folder and check there's nothing important in there - just move anything you need to the inbox and delete the rest. Then go through your Drafts and delete all those random emails that never got sent. Be ruthless - most of this stuff you won't need to keep.
Your inbox should be looking really good now! Go through and find everything you need to keep, but doesn't need any follow up - think bank notifications, paid invoices, receipts and confirmations. Grab all this, and either file it in your folders or just hit archive.
By now, everything left should be important and need follow up action. Grab your planner, and go through each email. If it only takes a minute to respond, do so and archive/file it - it's done! The trick to a really effective inbox is to only file/archive things once they're done - so either deal with each email in your inbox, or add it to your to-do list. Leave what hasn't been dealt with in your inbox and you're done!
Time for a huge sigh of relief - you've done it! Which is great... but the goal is to keep it looking that way.
So How Do You Maintain Inbox Zero? Here are my top tips.