December 21, 2015

[CHEAT SHEET] Finding Inner Peace in Your Inbox


Do you find yourself consumed all day with the struggle of keeping up with the emails in your inbox? If your inbox is the cluttered place where you store all your notes, events, to-dos, on top of all your emails, then it may be time to reevaluate the way you utilize your emails.

Here's where Inbox Zero steps in. Created by Merlin Mann in the early 2000's, his theory has been adopted by people all over the globe who have found peace of mind in their inbox. It allows you to clear out your inbox, and move past the stress of all those cluttered emails and on to the more important tasks in your life. We chatted with Jack Sinclair, CFO of Stack Overflow, an early adopter of Inbox Zero and our go-to guru on the subject and got his top tips and insights for those of you ready to get organized and embrace Inbox Zero.

Approaching Zero in 3, 2, 1....

Why Should You Adopt Inbox Zero?

Your email should be utilized for communication. But as well all know, your inbox often becomes a catch-all for everything else in your life. From your to-do list, to notes to yourself, to a way to keep track of your events and dates, your inbox can very quickly become a crowded place. And once it becomes that crowded place, it can become a source of stress and who needs more stress in their life?

Mann's theory is that we need to find a way to get back to that initial reason for email in the first place -- communication. The best way to do that is to utilize your inbox just for emails and do your best to maintain an empty inbox.

That doesn't mean you need to be constantly in your inbox deleting emails as they're delivered. The point of Inbox Zero is to move out and away from your emails to be more productive, rather than letting the stress of a full inbox consume your mind.

A messy inbox makes you a reactor. It forces you to focus solely on what's right in front of you (your emails) and you spend your day slogging through everything in your inbox instead of focusing or prioritizing the important things you need to be doing. When you work to maintain that Inbox Zero, you're forced to make a decision about an email right then and there in a timely manner. In a world where we spend 28% of our time at work on our emails, it's probably best to streamline the process.

Sinclair's reason for why he lives by Inbox Zero pretty much sums it up; "You don't get more time, but you're more likely to focus and work on the right things."

[caption id="attachment_6761" align="aligncenter" width="304"] via Mckinsey[/caption]

Breakdown of the average employee's tasks during the week.

How Can You Adopt Inbox Zero ?

Sinclair gave us his two steps for those who are ready to begin their Inbox Zero journey. While they require some time and dedication in the beginning, forming these habits will only relieve stress and make your life a little easier down the road.

    1. Give yourself time to set up and commit to it. There's no use in only committing to forming the habit halfway. So, set aside a couple hours or half a day as your Inbox Zero prep time and commit.

    1. Find a system that works for you. Your inbox is a personal space and if you're going to successfully achieve Inbox Zero, you need to figure out your best system to do so. Decide how you'll manage your tasks and your calendar events outside of your email inbox and trust it. That's key, you have to trust the system you set up for yourself so you don't end up reverting to the inbox catch-all.

At the heart of the Inbox Zero theory, it's all about clearing your mind. While you can't rely on it as your one solution for all your organizational problems, it's the best way to get started on your larger goal of self-management. With a clear mind, you're able to better prioritize and focus on the important things throughout your work day.

Ready to Reach Zero?