Getting to a Zero Inbox

Like it or not but email is a major means of communication and won’t be going away anytime soon.

Email gets a lot of criticism but it’s not inherently bad. It provides a record of communication that’s fast, electronic & asynchronous. The problem is that most people don’t manage their email, they let email manage them . . . and that is not a happy state to be in.

Worse still, someone with bad email skills is not only reducing their own productivity but also the productivity of those around them. Just think of the amount of time you waste following up with people who haven’t responded to an email because it’s lost somewhere in their Inbox.

Here is an approach for effective email management:

  • Check email periodically. Constantly checking email wastes time and email alerts are a distraction . . . disable them.
  • Review emails with the intention to get the Inbox down to zero.
  • Emails that are for your FYI should be read and then filed.
  • Emails that require a response that can be completed in under 2 minutes should be done immediately and then filed.
  • Emails that require a response today but you don’t have the time right now should be left in your Inbox for later.
  • Emails that require some work to be done before you can respond should be moved onto your Task Pad and filed. Remember, your tasks belong on your Task Pad, not buried in your Inbox.

The way you store and retrieve emails requires a balance between creating folders and using search functionality. The folder structure should be broad enough to easily determine where an email should be filed but detailed enough to cover your main work areas. If you’re a project manager then one folder for all emails associated with a project will probably be adequate. Then use the search functionality within that folder to find a specific email as needed. A folder structure that is too detailed will be unproductive since you’ll waste a lot of time deciding where to file emails.

The Intellilink Team