Stop treating your inbox as a to-do list
For a long time I used my email inbox as a to-do list. Not surprisingly, it got all too overwhelming when my inbox became inudated with hundreds of emails, and trying to figure out what I needed to do with which email was a nightmare.
Your inbox is a temporary storage area
Then a lightbulb moment came when I decided to start treating my inbox as what it should be: a temporary storage area to hold incoming emails. And with the help of Google calendar and a great to-do app (I use Todoist), I've reduced the number of emails in my inbox gradually. And recently I actually achieved inbox zero! I can't tell you how great it feels to have a completely empty inbox.
Ways to process your inbox
Achieving inbox zero doesn't mean that I have to do all the things I need to do that are contained in the emails. Just like when I check my physical letterbox I don't have to read through all the magazines, pay all the bills and reply to every letter straight away. It just means that I process and deal with each email so that it can be deleted or filed:
- Junk: Delete it.
- Emails which require no action and which I may want to reference later: File it in one of my folders.
- Emails which require action, which will fall under either of these scencarios:
- If it takes less than 3 minutes to do, do it. Then delete it or file it.
- Otherwise, put what I have to do on my calendar or to-do list. Then delete it or file it.
- Newsletter: If I haven't read the last 3 from the same person, unsubscribe and delete email. If it looks interesting and takes less than a few minutes to read, read it, then file or delete. If it takes longer to read, file it.
Now my action items are on my calendar and to-do list. And my inbox no longer makes me want to go and lie down in a darkened room.
Find a system that works for you
There are many methods out there that will help you achieve inbox zero. I've adapted mine to fit how my brain works and it works really well.
Are you currently suffering from inbox overwhelm? If so, take my process (or Google "inbox zero" and pick one of the recommended methods) and adapt it to suit how you work. And once you've experienced inbox zero, you will never want to let it get filled up again!