The fabled email Inbox Zero. More often talked about than achieved by a magnitude of 10 or greater. Like anything, we’re going to need easy systems and tools to get us there, that minimize human involvement and cognitive/decision-making resources. How would it feel to close out your inbox for the day, rather than wake up to an ever-growing list of to-dos, reminders, and people you still need to reply to? If you aren’t comfortable working on a desk or in a room with paper and crap scattered everywhere, then why endure the equivalent disarray with your inbox or desktop?
Step 1: Eliminate and Obliterate (Unsubscribe)
With every email you receive, ask yourself the question, “Do I need to receive this? Does this email/info move the needle on anything in my life, business or otherwise?” If you can’t readily identify a fairly strong justification to keep receiving those emails, unsubscribe. If you can’t unsubscribe, then create a filter to automatically place it in the trash.
To do that, click the inverted triangle in the top right of the email in Gmail > Filter messages like this >
> Write in the criteria that you want to filter out. In this example, I want to filter my monthly notification from Chase that my statement is available. Since I’m on auto-pay, receiving this email does nothing for me BUT other Chase emails may, so I’m only filtering out future emails with this exact subject line.
> Check the box(es) for what you want to do with it. I suggest deleting it if you’re sure you won’t need it, but the other option is to filter it to a folder. That means you won’t see it in your inbox, but it will still be saved in a folder you created (e.g. Credit Card Statements).
Step 2: Filter to Folder
For emails that you don’t want to outright delete or unsubscribe and may want to reference later or save, creating a filter to a specific folder is your best bet. Same process as above, but this time you are checking the boxes for “Skip the Inbox” and “Apply the label.” I will also check the box “Mark as read” since I am neurotic enough to even have unread emails bolded/showing in my folders bother/distract me. What’s the difference between a control freak and someone who is just impeccably organized? Answer: no idea, and I have even less of an idea how to make this punchline humorous.
Step 3: Delete, File or Boomerang
Now that you have proactively avoided 80%+ of your emails, the only ones that slip through to your inbox each morning should be the ones that matter. For each of those, execute or respond appropriately, then file or delete. If you need to push out executing or dealing with it, use Boomerang to “snooze” the email and have it pop back into your inbox at a later time of your exact choosing.
There you have it. Your pristine sanctuary of inbox and mind returns, daily. Let me know if this works out for you or any other tricks you think are worth sharing here. Many thanks and kinder regards.