Stop Playing with Your Email and Get Serious About Your Inbox

Full Mailbox

Your email inbox is filling up.

The message count is creeping up with each passing minute.

You’re not doing much about it either. Maybe playing with a few messages and responding randomly to a few comfortable emails.

If you want to get your inbox to zero, you are going to have to get serious about your email.

So, stop playing with your email and empty your inbox today.

Playing with Your Email

You open your inbox and peek at a few messages. Maybe poke around and see what looks interesting. Then you leave it be and let the emails continue to pile up.

The problem is that you aren’t taking your email seriously.

Instead, you are toying with it. Playing with it in your spare moments, but never really addressing it.

“Too many people play with their email like they play with their food.” (Tweet this Quote)

They pick it up. They put it down. The leave read messages just sitting there. And others unread entirely.

Their inbox becomes a bottomless pit of  messages. They treat their email like a waterfall stream of communication such as Facebook or Twitter rather than an inbox.

Whatever goes past… is in the past.

Get Serious About Your Inbox

Time to get serious.

When was the last time you actually emptied your inbox?

The key to staying on top of your email is to make it a habit. Taking standard actions at regular times.

Here are 8 Tips to Help You Get Serious with Your Email and Empty Your Inbox:

  1. Empty It Daily – Just like emptying dishes in the sink, if you don’t empty your inbox daily it gets messier and takes even more time to clean up. Dedicate yourself to acting on your email daily.
  2. Get Tasks Out of Your Inbox – Your inbox is not for todos. Keeping emails in your inbox to act on later is a recipe for losing them amongst the incoming email flood.  Get those tasks (and messages) out of your inbox and onto your todo list.
  3. Check Less Frequently – Emptying your email inbox doesn’t mean that you have to check it incessantly. In fact, you would do better to only check it a few times a day. When you constantly check it you are more likely to peek at a message or leave something un-responded in your inbox. Only go into your inbox when you are ready to dedicate time to acting on it.
  4. Minimize the Flood – One of the best strategies to keep your inbox clean is to stop the unneeded emails from arriving in the first place. Minimize the number of subscription type emails that you receive. Unsubscribe from ads, newsletters, and other emails that you no longer read. Less email coming in, means less work to get it out.
  5. Keep Score – If you have trouble plowing through large amounts of email, then try keeping score. Get a piece of paper and tick off the number of messages you have processed until you reach an appropriate goal. (Maybe 10, 20, 30 emails at a time.)
  6. Schedule Time – Make checking your email an event. Schedule time and make an appointment with your inbox. Instead of 30 seconds in the elevator, schedule a half hour each time you process your inbox.
  7. Filter Your Email – First, make sure your email provider has good spam protection. You don’t need to waste time sorting through unsolicited emails. As well, use a personal filtering option like Sanebox or Gmail Tabs.
  8. Get a Virtual Assistant – If you can’t keep up with the volume of email you are receiving, then maybe a Virtual Assistant could help you stay on top of your inbox. For example, a good friend of mine runs his own creative agency. His time (and thus revenue) is directly tied to his focusing on his client. He utilizes a VA to keep up with all of his client email communications so he never misses an important message. (See my previous post on Virtual Assistants.)

Empty Your Inbox Today

Playing with your email isn’t going to get the job done.

You need to take your inbox seriously and work on it every day.

The key is consistent and daily action to prevent the overload, backups, and missed opportunities.

With some minimal yet consistent action, you can control your inbox rather than the other way around.

Empty your inbox today.

Question: What will it take to get your inbox to zero today? (and every day?) You can leave a comment by clicking here.

6 thoughts on “Stop Playing with Your Email and Get Serious About Your Inbox

  1. I don’t see what the obsession with “Inbox 0” is. I think it’s really just for Type A people that like seeing a Zero next to their unread messages. I do see the point of not treating the inbox as a task list. I always get important things out onto my KanBan board, but I see no real value in reaching Inbox zero, especially when email provides awesome search tools that lets you find any old email you need.

    1. i dont think theyre saying to delete everything, i think its more to file it away into folders where you can reference them, but they aren’t cluttering your inbox – much in the same way a clean desk is conducive to productivity.

      personally, i make sure i reach inbox 0 before i leave every single day. i have seperate folders for each project, plus a “unrelated/of no use” folder that i dump random things into (emails saying “im selling girl scout cookies!” or “free cake on the 3rd floor!”), as well as a “completed” folder where i deposit project folders after the project is no longer active.

  2. The extension for Gmail, ActiveInbox, is the best I’ve seen to allow you to zero your inbox. It works with Dave Allen’s GTD method and has a ‘focus’ mode to get you powering through your emails. Brilliant.

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