Manage your emails with Inbox Zero

Emails can take up a lot of our time, and when you are busy, it’s easy to get bogged down in them. Managing your emails effectively can therefore save you a ton of time. The Inbox Zero method can help you with that! 

The concept of Inbox Zero is not about achieving an inbox of zero messages by the end of the day, it is about managing and sorting them effectively to minimise the stress they cause.

It’s easy to procrastinate when looking at emails. The Inbox Zero method advocates that for each email, you should promptly take one of the following actions: 

  • Delete the email
  • Delegate responding or acting on the email
  • Respond to the email
  • Defer dealing with the email and place it in a “Do later” folder
  • Do what’s been requested

Here are some useful steps to tackle that pesky inbox:

Never leave your email open unless you intend to deal with it 

Without knowing it, leaving your email constantly open means that you are constantly checking and waiting for new messages to come through. Your attention is better spent elsewhere than in your inbox folder and your best course of action is to allocate times throughout the day to check your email: be that every hour, or at specific times, when you know you have a quiet moment. If an email is so urgent that it can’t wait, then whoever sent it to you should really have identified a better way to communicate that urgency. Another tip is to disable email notifications on your phone and refresh your inbox manually. This way you actively make the decision for when responding and dealing with emails. You need to control emails, don’t let them control you!

Respond immediately if it takes under 2 minutes. If not, defer

Any email that can quickly be sent out will save you accumulating tasks that you may be more reluctant to do later. However, if an email requires more of your time, then you should defer this to a more appropriate time of the day.

Emails that you intend to respond to later should ideally be placed in a separate folder (possible different files for different topics) so that. you can put your fingers on what you need when you need it. Make sure however that you take time daily to respond to the emails in this “Deal Later” or other filter folders to keep them current. 

Less is more

It’s an email, not a novel, a thesis, or an essay. It’s okay to give one-line answers. It’s not okay to write 10 paragraphs; readers will give up reading after the second line if it’s not clear and concise and easy to read. Try to stick to a 5-sentence rule to keep things short and sweet. If more than this is required, then a phone call may be a more efficient way to communicate. 

Write your emails in an organised and accessible manner

Emails are designed to convey information concisely and people on the receiving end are busy, much like yourself! Make their life easier by categorising the information so that they can access it quickly. If you have 5 points to make but one of your colleagues may only be interested in the third one, you don’t want to force them to read everything before they get to what interests them. You want to them to spot straight away that point 3 is the one they should read. This is best done through using titles, numbering and bullet points. Communicating information effectively and efficiently with your co-workers in as little words as possible means less time spent for everyone! 

Don’t be afraid to delete!

Our last piece of advice is don’t be afraid to delete emails that are not worth your time! Not all emails are meant to be answered. Deleting, unsubscribing, or archiving might seem a little scary at first, for fear of being too brash or reckless, but you need to be self-assured in your ability to judge what is important and what is not. You must be honest with yourself when saying “I’ll reply later” when you know deep down you won’t, or you simply don’t need to. Deleting necessary emails go a long way to maintaining a healthy and manageable inbox. Whenever you have some spare time, try deleting or archiving as many messages as possible… Happy inbox, happy life!


ISC Medical’s Online Effective Time Management Course

If you’re struggling with time management, be it because of email overload, difficulty to delegate, falling into procrastination, or a need to be better organised, register for our Online Effective Time Management Course. We also cover more on the topic of Inbox Zero, which was created by productivity expert Martin Mann. These computer-based modules will help you reflect on the way in which you run your daily activities and will give you tools to organise your time more effectively.

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