Email was originally intended to be a tool for everyone that improved communication, productivity and efficiency. Today’s reality could hardly be further from the truth. People dread opening their inbox, and many users have hundreds of unread emails. Far from efficient, email is consuming an ever-increasing amount of our time, and due to the sheer volume, there is a high chance that important emails could be missed. According to the Radicati Group Email Statistics Report 2016, 215 billion emails per day are sent in 2016.
Keeping on top of your inbox has become a job in its own right, but don’t despair. By having a focused and efficient set of strategies, it is possible to achieve “Inbox 0” and perhaps make email an important tool in your arsenal again.
1. Set Aside Email Time Daily
Email should not be like your Twitter feed, where you can drop in and out as time permits. You need to actively manage your email, and that means spending at least thirty minutes daily clearing it. This is a structured activity where you are not disrupted or distracted, but can really focus and achieve significant traction.
2. Don’t Procrastinate, Make A Decision
Many inboxes have become a storage system that is never cleaned. Due to the ever increasing capacities of our inboxes, people never feel obligated to delete an email, which then leads to a cluttered, frustrating and useless system. When you set aside time for your emails, assess each email instantly and make a decision. Does that email require you to do anything? Will you ever read or need that information again? If the answer is no, then delete it. You don’t need it, so why are you keeping it? If you do need it, use a tagging system so that you become more efficient and can locate specific emails instantly.
3. Be Ruthless and Unsubscribe
How many email lists notify you about a promotion or a daily offer? Signing up for Groupon may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but is it beneficial to your career? Do you even open those emails? If you use Outlook or Gmail, here is a walkthrough of how to quickly unsubscribe from all of those lists. They are adding nothing but clutter and confusion to your inbox and you will be significantly more productive without them.
4. Be Careful Of What You Open
This may sound rash, but if you don’t see your name as the first recipient, or you don’t recognize the sender of the email, delete it instantly. Some might call this a risky strategy, but in general, people who are sending you and two hundred other people the same email at the same time are simply spamming you. Perhaps you can alter the rules to something a little more lenient that you feel confident with, but this will assist you will making quicker decisions, and empower you towards inbox zero.
5. Check The Date Of Your Emails
Another great way to get some momentum going is to sort your emails by date and work your way from the oldest up. It is almost guaranteed that your inbox will have emails lingering from six or seven years ago. Much like the items in your loft that you will never use again, you should be able to make quick and easy decisions about the importance of these emails, and delete them if necessary.
The key thing to understand is how you think of your email inbox. It is not and never was intended to be an unlimited storage container for all of your emails, but rather more of a railroad station, where items arrive and then wait to be sent on their next journey. By getting into the habit of prioritizing and actively attacking your email on a daily basis, you will become more productive, and less likely to miss that important email.