In my article Take Charge of Your Inbox; Eliminate Email Clutter for Good I discussed the concept of Zero Inbox. I’ve gotten such a huge response the zero inbox idea that I’m following up with it here. People yearn for a zero inbox just as they long for an uncluttered life but the problem is they just don’t know how to get it. Today I want to share with you exactly what a zero inbox is, how to get to zero and lastly one secret that will change your relationship to email FOREVER!
What is a Zero Inbox?
A zero inbox means zero email in your inbox, zip, zilch, nada! Does this mean that you’ve answered each request, read every newsletter, RSVP’d to every invitation, paid the ebill that just came in? Not exactly – it simply means that you’ve made a conscious decision on whether you are going to give this item more of your energy and time.
I first got the idea of a zero inbox from David Allen who developed the Getting Things Done (GTD) method. He pioneered the idea of getting “everything out of your head and into a trusted system” and in this case out of your inbox and into a trusted system. Allen’s system requires a “capture tool” – somewhere to collect similar types of information, objects or tasks. Capture tools work equally well for physical, mental and electronic clutter. For zeroing out an inbox, folders like “To Do” or “To Read” are an excellent capture tool.
Zero to Zen – Getting to Zero Inbox
If you currently have thousands of emails in your inbox it’s going to take some time to get to zero. Give yourself a solid 2 to 3 hours for the first round.
- Use the 4 D’s – Process the last 2 weeks of emails.
- Declutter – Sort and purge – Use the search function to identify emails that you definitely don’t want or need. Delete them right away. It will feel so good to empty out the trash can. Be especially diligent in deleting emails that have negative energy.
- Use Folders as Capture Tools – Search for emails you’ll want to keep (to do items, reference, to read etc.) Create folders and move the emails into the folders.
- Archive – Once you’ve decluttered and organized your important emails into folders – Move everything else into a folder marked “Archives”or just “Emails”. Make sure to date the folder for reference. You can always use the search function to find what you need in seconds so there’s no need to keep all those emails in your inbox.
- Zero out daily – Use the 4Ds (Do, Delete, Defer, Delegate) to zero out your inbox daily!
If you are used to having thousands of emails in your inbox, a zero inbox could be a bit scary, leave you feeling vulnerable even. It did for me when I switched to the zero inbox method, but don’t worry. What I’m going to teach you next will help allay that fear and change your relationship to email for good!
Email Clutter = Deferred Decision
Here’s the secret – clutter, whether it’s physical, electronic or mental, represents a “deferred decision.” If you have email clutter and are in email overload, you may be deferring decisions, some minor but possibly some major ones as well.
To deal with all the information coming at us each day, it’s important to be able to make decisions about what goes, what stays and what’s going to get more of our attention. In essence – what’s important to us and how we prioritize things in our lives.
When you make this paradigm shift and look at your inbox as a series of decision you need to make, it actually becomes very empowering. So try it!
Zero out your inbox and let us know how you did. Post a comment below!
Let us know how you do. Post a comment below!
Love David Allen – and have been using GTD very imperfectly – for years. I’ve got hundreds of folders in my email, but recently found how valuable this proper filing can be. I was able to research a topic from 4 years ago that affects my parent’s estate. Having it properly filed may have saved me $28,000. And I could use that cash around now! Thanks for spreading the word, Angela!
Woohoo! Love it when organizing and decluttering = cash. I hear it all the time from my clients and readers. David Allen is amazing and a “must read” for tips on the way we live and work today. I teach all my clients the “capture tool” concept and I particularly like his “out of your mind and into a trusted resource” philosophy. Thank you for posting Deborah!
I’m actually quite good at zeroing out my inbox and delegating pertinent emails to folders, but now I need to zero out some of my folders which are on overload. Perhaps your next lesson will be not to forget about the folders and trash the emails that are outdated, or are no longer of interest. Thanks Angela for some great tips.
Hi!, Thanks for posting. Great job on zeroing out your inbox. The one thing I would say about zeroing out folders is to apply the “broad sweep” method. Have a look at your folders, as you would a room, and go to the ones you can immediately get rid of. Things that are stale, research you did that is not longer necessary since you’ve already completed the project etc… Get rid of those first. It will get the ball rolling and you’ll feel better instantly. It’s just like cleaning out regular files. Good luck and keep us posted!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.