Inbox Zero - Efficiently Efficient

Inbox Zero - the concept of keeping your inbox empty has been something I have always been intrigued with but failed to do time and again. Not this year. This year I am going to give it a solid try.

The idea is simple - when an email lands immediately do one of these things:

  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Respond
  • Defer
  • Do

I have started doing this and it is somewhat freeing - I no longer am having to scroll through my inbox to review what I may or may not need to do. I am early in my adoption of it but so far I am liking it and I hope it helps me free up some of my time through making things more efficient. I get a lot of emails (and I mean a lot). Managing them has always been a challenge. I need a way to action them effectively, not forget about them and enable timely responses. I have tried various approaches that all never seem to do it for me. A folder based approach meant I would just forget to review the right folders so simple is important to me - I can’t have too many places to go check.

For those looking to embark on this journey you may find the following tips useful. I use Outlook Web App exclusively (I love the web app’s versatilty and flexibilty of being able to switch devices and have the same view and functionality):

  • I had to set up a rule to move all calendar invites to a separate folder. I get invited to a lot of meetings and these just clog my inbox too quickly. For now a dedicated folder for those that I review once or twice a day is working.
  • I setup a rule to move all meeting accepts to an archived folder (you could similar just delete them). Again, I don’t need meeting accepts cluttering my inbox.
  • I had to do a unsubscribe purge to various annoying automated emails that I never read.
  • I created two quick steps - 1. to mark as read and archive an email and 2. mark as read, archive and create a task (in this order). I archive everything vs. delete (storage is cheap)
  • Any email that requires deferred action I use the create task quick step in Outlook to create a task in my todo list (using Microsoft Task Manager)
  • Similarly, anything I need to read again I just push it as a task and archive it.
  • I review my inbox on an ad hoc basis throughout the day for now, triaging emails as I see them. At some point, I may set specific times to review my inbox to allow more efficient focus time.