The Secret to Inbox Zero

With the influx of emails, it’s harder and harder to manage the massive amounts of messages we receive daily. It’s a huge problem for business leaders because it takes up valuable time that can be spent on more important tasks.

It’s stressful, never-ending, and it constantly grows. “On some days I feel like my inbox is this dark cloud hovering over my life disallowing any peace from settling in,” says Rory Vaden, contributor to Fast Company. 

He doesn’t claim to have the answer to email overload, but he does have a few strategies to help keep the beast of an inbox under some sort of control.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Sometimes we save emails just in case we need them. Vaden suggests you copy and paste these emails in a Word document for safekeeping instead. “Word docs are designed to be saved and stored but emails are not,” he says.

Get them out of your inbox so they are out of your mind.

Extend Your Out of Office

When you are out of the office, extend your responder for one day longer than you are gone.It gives you a day to catch up without 200 more emails flooding your inbox.

Limit Use of Reply All

Email strings take up inbox space. Go through and delete all email strings except the most recent conversation. In doing that, however, be careful to keep any attachments. Another option you can use is the “conversations” button in Outlook which consolidates emails with the same subject line.

Schedule Email Time

Set aside uninterrupted time so you can get through your inbox.  If you don’t set aside time, you can spend your whole day on email.

Prioritize

Start to tackle the emails you can complete in less than two minutes. If it will take longer, skip it and move on to the next one. Get through the easy ones first so you can spend more time on the emails that need your attention.

Vaden also suggests you flip your emails so the oldest are at the top, and the newest at the bottom. Eliminate the base of your inbox so it’s less likely to pile up again.

Let Go

You don’t need to share your opinion on everything. It’s hard to let go because we’reso emotionally invested in our businesses. However, few items will be handled differently because of your additional insight.

New Mailbox App

Orchestra, Inc. has developed a new application for Gmail that encourages users to get their inbox down to zero quickly and efficiently. When users want to see a message, they simply swipe across the message and choose to delete it or schedule a time for it to return. It also gives users the option to archive or delete messages. Unfortunately this app only works with Gmail messages and is available only for iPhone users. Users also can’t view folders or labels they have made in their Gmail account, as the app will only display the contents of the inbox.

No matter what you do, email can still pile up, but there are ways you can manage your inbox. There may not be a perfect solution, but hopefully these tips will help you along the way.

What helps you get through your email?

Image: Debarshi Ray via Flickr, CC 2.0

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