“Ping. You’ve got mail” it used to say.
But now it’s either a distraction from the important task at hand or more work.
Email can get out of hand and it seems like a mountain of a task to get it back under control.
Enter Inbox Zero.
Firstly, what is it?
Inbox Zero was developed by Merlin Mann. It is a rigorous approach to email management that aims to keep inbox empty – or almost empty – at all times.
Why would you want to have your inbox empty or almost empty? Primarily because it eliminates distractions – those emails that shout at you when you are attempting to concentrate on the important tasks at hand.
How do you achieve Inbox Zero?
My method incorporates the use of the 4D’s: Do, Dump, Delegate, Decide When.
As an email comes into your inbox, you choose one of the following:
Do – if you can action it under 2 minutes, do it immediately
Dump – how much of what we get is spam!? Delete it immediately
Delegate – if it doesn’t fit into your area of responsibility, delegate it immediately
Decide When (or diarise) – if the task from the email will take longer than two minutes, diarise it to be done later (for example, schedule it – place it as an appointment in your calendar – for 4pm this afternoon for 30 minutes). Also set an alarm as a part of the schedule in your calendar or set one on your phone.
Merlin Mann chooses the following to deal with his emails:
When to get your email to Inbox Zero?
Some people love to get to Inbox Zero daily. Others find that daunting and settle for weekly: Friday 5pm = Inbox Zero.
Some tips to help you to be an email ninja:
Only check your email 3 or 4 times a day, or once an hour, on the hour.
Add a line under your email signature that says something like: “I only check my emails three or four times a day. If it’s urgent, please call me or walk around to my desk and see me”. Naturally, this won’t work if you are on a help-desk but for the rest of us, it will get you back control of email rather than it controlling you.
Close your email client (Outlook, Gmail, etcetera) down when you want to focus on other tasks.
Down tools at the end of the day. Choose a time to finish and set an alarm so that you do finish. Then, don’t check your emails whilst you are away from work.
If that is not possible, choose a time, and timeframe, to check them away from work and stick to it – for example 8pm for 15 minutes.