Top 3 Tips for Getting Your Inbox to Zero (or close, anyway…)

Many of my co-workers support customers across the globe, spanning numerous time zones. If they aren’t responding to customers in Australia, they are sleeping or assisting customers in Europe and other regions. Email does not stop flowing into their inboxes. I mean, there is not one hour of the day when email pauses for them. Overwhelming, right?

The great news is that it doesn’t have to be. There are a plethora of organizational experts and systems out there that can show you how to get and stay organized and implement an organizational system all your own. In regard to email, there are a few key tips to follow that can help you keep your workflow under control and your inbox as close to zero as possible.

1)   Schedule. Set aside time every single day to review your inbox. When and how much time you spend is up to you. I’ve seen folks process email for 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes right after lunch and 30 minutes at the end of the day. While others may choose to do 45 minutes to 1 hour in the morning and also in the evening. The key here is to respond to any email that will take you less than 2 minutes to complete. If it is going to take you more than 2 minutes, file it away and respond to it during your next email review session. Not only will you feel more in control of the content flying at you, but you will also prevent email from dictating your workflow.

2)   Delete. Do not be afraid to delete emails that you no longer need. I’ve seen inboxes with upwards of 10,000 emails that could be deleted. If you are really concerned that you may need an email in the future, move it to a reference folder. But I strongly encourage you to delete as many as you can muster the courage to.

3)   Commit. In the beginning, it can seem overwhelming to get a handle on the system. They key is to schedule the email review session on your calendar, and then stick to your calendar. Obviously, fires will need to be put out and last-minute things will come up. When that happens, reschedule your email review just like you would any other meeting. Over time, reviewing email will become a habit and you may not even need to schedule the time for yourself anymore…you will just automatically do it.

(Okay, I know I said 3 tips, but this next one is important…)

4)   Accept. Most of us are working on numerous projects at any given time. If we are setting goals and prioritizing effectively, it is impossible that we will get everything done every single day. If you implement a system, commit to that system and can say, honestly, that you are working as hard and as effectively as you can toward your goals, not getting it all done is ok. If you can get it all done, you don’t have enough to do. Work your hardest. Give yourself a break. And if your inbox doesn’t get down to zero, it is ok.

For more info on some of my favorite organizational systems check out Getting Things DoneInbox ZeroThe Now Habit and Organizing from the Inside Out.

About the Author

Tal Klein is senior director of products at Bromium. Before joining Bromium, he was director of technical marketing with the Enterprise Desktops and Applications group at Citrix, and prior to that Tal managed integrated product strategy at Citrix where he developed cross-platform technologies focused on virtualization, autonomic computing and cloud. Before his tenure at Citrix he led the technical marketing team at NetScaler, which was acquired by Citrix. Tal has also spent over a decade in the hosted datacenter industry developing managed hosting products and services. He is author of several pending patents.

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