A little over three years ago I made the switch to a zero inbox and it was the best thing I ever did for my organizational skills. At that time I had had my personal Gmail account since about 2005 with thousands and thousands of emails. Instead of taking time putting everything into folders, I simply decided to archive it all and start from that day forward. Since I started a new job, I was able to keep my work email at zero inbox from day one.
Here’s how I manage emails now to keep my inbox as close to zero as possible:
- Check email first thing each morning (after affirmations and to-do list) and before I close my computer from work for the day. By doing this, I can deal with any emails that came in before I started my workday for all the early birds who start before me, and then I can create a plan for everything left over at the end of the day.
- Check email at set times throughout the day. Now, I don’t always follow this rule perfectly because it depends on what I’m working on. If I need to focus on a project or task and I don’t want to be disturbed by emails, I close the tab and set my timer to check it once per hour or every 2 hours so as to still be responsive to the needs of coworkers, but not be interrupted by constant flows of incoming emails.
- I use the two-minute rule when dealing with emails as I go through them. This idea comes from the Getting Things Done method by David Allen. If it’s something I can respond to right away, I quickly send a reply and then file that email in a folder. If it doesn’t need a response, I file it right away. If it’s informational and a deadline is attached, but it’s not immediate, I use the snooze feature to send it back to me when it needs to be completed or responded to. If it is going to take a bit longer, I work on it during an email response period during the day.
So by the end of the day everything should either be snoozed, responded to, or filed in a folder. I rarely delete emails because I do frequently have to refer back to old emails for information and it’s very easy to find when they are in folders. I also use the search function in Gmail to find the emails that I need. For newsletters and subscriptions, I create filters that send the emails directly to folders so it doesn’t even have to come to my inbox.
My personal favorite Gmail settings are to use the compact view with conversation view off. I like to see all my emails individually and conversation view confuses me a bit. Because I see all messages individually, I sometimes will only keep the most recent email in a thread and delete the rest because it’s not needed.
And, to save me a little time, I have smart reply turned on so it auto-detects what I might want to say. It’s kind of scary how accurate it is. I also use Grammarly to check my spelling, tone, and grammar as I go.
Keeping my email organized and efficient has helped me to save time and communicate effectively!