May 10, 2013

What We've Been Reading: Inbox Zero

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Like clockwork, you'll see friends and colleagues alike mention the words "inbox zero" in their quest to reach the much-coveted empty inbox. It's the pinnacle of email triaging and organization. There's no clutter. There's no mess. There's just... nothing. However, it seems that as quickly as you delete mail something new pops up. So how do you get to inbox zero?

LinkedIn: Randi Zuckerberg: Getting to Inbox Zero

While hosting an inbox cleaning party (yes, an inbox cleaning party), Randi found a pattern among the emails that were difficult to delete. They were either emails you didn't want to say no to, emails that weren't urgent but needed a reply in the future, and feel-good emails that didn't need a response.
1) Emails that you hate having to say no to.

You know the email I'm talking about. A colleague asking for a favor or an introduction. A family friend asking if you can pass their resume along. An organization asking you to sponsor their event.

If you're having trouble saying no or declining something and that's why the email has been sitting in your inbox, consider having a friend or colleague draft a response for you. Sometimes it's easier for someone who isn't emotionally tied to the response to craft a reply.

43 Folders: Inbox Zero: Processing to zero

Funny enough, this post was published back in 2006, and it shows how much is similar, or it shows how much email hasn't relly changed since then.
Here's the deal: your email has been accumulating because you don't have the time to answer it properly, which is certainly reasonable and accurate. You also fear losing track of the email you haven't responded to -- that it will fall between the cracks. This fear is also reasonable and accurate. But you're just as keenly aware that with the backlog of email you have plus the increasing rate of incoming messages you receive each day, you can't possibly ever catch up. This, sadly, is also entirely reasonable and accurate. It's all reasonable and it's all accurate, but come on: something's gotta give.

Fast Company: Delete This: 7 Tips To Getting To Inbox Zero

And last but not least, the folks at Fast Company have their own take on how to get to the coveted state of inbox zero, including this gem:
Offline Attack: Do not underestimate the power of momentum when responding to emails. Nothing is more emotionally defeating than spending 2 hours in your inbox and having a net gain of only 2 emails completed because responses were coming in as fast as you were sending them out or because you got into a game of "email tennis" with someone who obviously has more time on their hands than you do. Instead, work "offline" every single time you answer emails. That way you can focus on what you are doing and you can capitalize on the synergy that comes along with getting into a rhythm of responding.


If you're one of the 400 million-odd Gmail users, has made a cool infographic on over 50 keyboard shortcuts found in Gmail. And, if anything, that should get you triage your Gmail inbox a bit more quickly.

If all else fails, there's always Select All and Delete. Inbox zero.