The Path to Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero

This is my inbox as of Thu May 28, 2015. How can this be? I manage several businesses, constantly develop websites, have account in over 200 social networks, etc. How can my inbox be empty, what’s the big trick? Are you ready for it?

The obvious trick is to have a social media assistant. The key is to simply delegate all your your email and social media communications and share your inbox with one or many within your organization.

It can sometimes seem like all we’re doing is clearing messages, desperately trying to empty our inbox faster than the flow of new messages coming in. Or, we spend hours just wading around in our inbox, feeling overwhelmed. We know we’re spending our time unproductively, and feel like we’re fighting a losing battle. – From “Email Management: How Can We Be More Inventive?” – Forbes Magazine

Just Say No

I have a second and even more powerful trick: by default, the answer to 98% of the emails I receive is either DELETE or NO. My framework is really simple but there’s some art to it. I don’t read your content when you want me to, just only when I need to learn about the subject. By default, my answer is no. And then I keep saying no for a month or two or three. I only say yes when I need stuff to happen and then I would scout the archives for previously submitted NOs and pick the best solution offered to me at the time or seek a new solution altogether.

Fast Response

If you’ve done business with me you’ll recall that I either reply instantly or before the deadline you set. My assistant will let you now right away because she manages my whole schedule. She’s also trained to forward each message to the pertinent parties, so an instant reply is not that hard. If I don’t reply instantly it means that your response or schedule response has been logged in my calendar and probably you got an email saying “expect this by X” or “I’ll reply next week”.

500-1000 Emails per Day

And a lot of it simply gets archived, rerouted etc. Given my 2% positive reply rate, on most days I’m saying yes to five or so people, one way or another. And a great deal of this email stream is already been replied to or archived by automatic filters. This sounds like heaven but what can you do if you don’t have an assistant.

No Assistant? Retool Your Processes for Inbox Zero

I mean it. Change the way you operate. ASAP. You don’t get paid to reply to emails, I assume. Although it sounds hard to do, inbox zero is easily attainable with some simple changes, even sans assistants:

  • Request customers to use a private forum to post request for projects, etc.
  • Set up filters to automatically archive newsletters, promos, etc.
  • Use Slack.
  • Use a separate account for personal uses (passwords, life, etc).
  • Delegate your personal email management to your spouse.
  • Pick a day of the week just for reading. And stick to it!
  • Say no more often and respond or delegate immediately
  • Unsubscribe from every useless account.
  • Instead of using RSS or newsletter subscriptions just join Twitter.
  • Strive for inbox zero overtime you open your email app.

Finally, set up a structure around your life and business where is simply easier for people to wait for the next meeting or directly contact each technician. If you are a lone ranger, hire a virtual assistant or revise your business processes. Email management doesn’t have to be hard, if I can do it then anyone can achieve this!