Sacha Cabral (@sachacabral)
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Friday January 21, 2016 – Technology has been an amazing revolution in the world of business. Before the internet rolled around, business correspondence was typed or hand written and sent by post. That means it could take days before your recipient got the message and even more days before you got a reply – gasp! Electronic mail made business so much more efficient. Until it didn’t.
Today many business executives spend more time managing their email inbox than managing their company. They’re drowning in a slew of emails which require a response or an acknowledgement. The concept of Inbox Zero – originally proposed by productivity expert Merlin Mann – is an aggressive approach to email management which shaves your inbox down to minimal amounts of email.
Here are seven steps to get you closer to Inbox Zero.
Step 1: Turn Notifications Off
When you start controlling your inbox – instead of it controlling you – you realize that you do not need notifications. Turn them off. If your mind is engaged on a project or focused in a meeting and a notification pops up on your phone or laptop, you’re immediately thrown from your train of thought. Prevent this by removing notifications on your computer and phone.
Step 2: Create Rules
Before you can hope to have a happy inbox, you need to filter the spam. This is not just about clearing out the existing spam; it’s about channeling the future spam that hasn’t yet arrived. In Outlook you can use “Create Rule” or in Gmail you can assign emails to different tabs i.e. promotions, news, social, etc. When using “Create Rule” in Outlook you can assign particular senders or subject lines directly into specific folders. Using these tools leaves your inbox clutter free and allows you to focus on the emails that really need your attention.
Step 3: Time Block
One reason we get sucked into the black hole of email management is because we don’t give ourselves a definitive start and end time. We just work and work and work on managing our email inbox. Unless your responsibilities entail you to consistently monitor email, spending all day working on your email doesn’t move the needle on your work objectives.
To avoid losing a day to email management, set definitive start and end times each day for working on your inbox. You may spend an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. Block these times off in your calendar. Be deliberate and disciplined in order to keep your inbox under control.
Step 4: Work Offline
I got this tip from Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek. Tim downloads all his emails on a day, goes to a coffee shop and replies to all of them offline. My version of this is simply to select “Work Offline” in Outlook. The reason I like this is because it feels like you’re actually getting somewhere. So often you click ‘send’ on one email and get back three. You feel defeated.
Once you’ve deliberately set out time to work on your inbox, work offline in order to make actual progress.
Step 5: Avoid “Reply All”
One of the most abused tools in email is “Reply All”. It fills our inboxes with way too many FYI’s and unnecessary information. Be a part of the solution and not the problem. Avoid “Reply All” wherever possible and when you are the one initiating the email, suggest that “Reply All” is not necessary.
Step 6: Use the If Yes, If No strategy
If you fire off a question via email, provide rebuttal directions. For example, if you ask your work mate if they followed up on information that was due provide an “if yes” or “if no” scenario such as, “Hi John, I’m just checking if you followed up on the quote from XYZ company. If yes, could you send me a copy of the quote? If no, would you be able to get this information today?” This allows your recipient to avoid entering a round of email ping pong with you.
Step 7: Accept that it will never be perfect
Email will usually come at you faster than you can keep up. Accept that and stick to your daily routine to keep your inbox as reduced as possible. If you will only accept perfection, you will end up more disappointed and frustrated than you started.
I am a writer, a speaker and a life coach for individuals seeking growth and development in their life. I am a firm believer that the answers you’re seeking lay within you. My job is to assist in pulling them out. Originally from the Caribbean, I’ve lived mostly in warm climates (hoping to change that someday). I love sunshine, the sea and the simple beauties of life. Follow me @sachacabral or visit my blog at http://sachac.com/the-blog