My inbox became out of control and it was driving me crazy!!
Please note that the term Inbox Zero was coined by Merlin Mann.
I run my own business which means there is no day off. I answer business emails every day, weekends and vacations included. Those days are actually easy to handle. The difficult part is when I travel. Whenever I land somewhere, I usually have dozens of new emails. When I teach workshops and have no time for office work, emails pile up. I spend a minimum of 3 days after each trip just dealing with emails. Things get forgotten, opportunities missed. Yes, I do need an assistant to handle my inbox. Or at least to screen the important stuff that needs immediate attention. But the first step was to bring my inbox down to zero.
There were no unread emails in my inbox, actually most had been answered in a timely manner. A few messages still needed attention or filing. After several hours over a 3 day period I painfully went through hundreds upon hundreds of messages. Over all the damage wasn't bad. I had not missed many important messages. I promptly apologized to the few people who were still waiting for an answer to an email that had gone missing in the bottom of the pile.
Next I made the decision to handle incoming messages in a more deliberate manner.
Steps taken immediately:
- Never close an email without answering it. Delete it immediately.
- If an email needs to be handled from my computer instead of my phone, flag it and answer immediately upon my return to the office.
- Archive important messages in folders immediately instead of keeping them in the inbox to do it later...
- Unsubscribe from all email lists that I stopped reading for lack of time.
- Schedule a specific time to answer emails on my daily planner instead of answering them throughout the day. Maybe 30-60 minutes at the beginning and at the end of each day. Since I work with every possible timezone, my inbox fills up almost as much throughout the night as it does during the day.
Keeping my inbox empty is completely unrealistic but never letting it overflow with hundreds of emails is the goal, 50 or less would be ideal. It's a work in progress but I'm happy to report that so far, so good! Now I still need to find an assistant but I feel pretty good about my new and improved method. Lots of travel coming up for vacation and work, let's see if I can stay on top of the darn inbox and save myself days of catching up after each trip.