For most people, I know that the idea of having NO emails in your inbox seems impossible.
But, it isn’t.
Even with multiple email addresses from several ventures, I completely clear my inbox on a daily basis.
With my day job running a social media agency, I receive somewhere between 25–50 new emails every day. For some people, that may seem like a lot, and for others — I get it — that’s nothing.
I’ve put several processes in place that help me deal with incoming email (and also prevent it from existing in the first place). I know I’m not the only person in the world that stresses out about their email inbox being clutter-free, so hopefully some of these tactics will help…
Use a Folder System
This is easily my number one recommendation to immediately clear up the majority of email inboxes, and I’m honestly very surprised that more people don’t use this functionality.
Within my work email, I have an entire folder hierarchy set-up for emails that don’t need a response. I have a master folder for “Opportunities” and another master folder for “Clients” — and each sales prospect or current client gets their own folder for dumping messages.
These messages are often responses to emails I’ve sent with information I’ll need later. Sometimes I’m copied on a thread of emails with a client and their team that has important information about promotion dates, etc. Other times, a client will send me some content that needs to be added to their calendar. The key in saving an email in my folders is: I do need it at some point, but it doesn’t require an immediate action from me, and there is already a system in place to trigger a later action.
This eliminates at least 50% of the emails I receive from my inbox and organizes them appropriately.
I do have a separate folder I keep for legal communication, contracts, etc. — just in case.
For all flight itineraries, online order / tracking confirmations, hotel reservations, restaurant reservations, healthcare, movie tickets, etc. I keep separate folders in my personal inbox to keep track of these.
For example: I’m flying to Switzerland to visit my sister in February and I had my ticket confirmation sent via email. Since I do not need to do anything with this reservation until the day of departure, I have it saved in my “Flights” folder and know exactly where to find it when I’m heading to the airport.
About once a week, I go through all my personal folders and delete any messages I no longer need.
Separate Internal Communication
In terms of preventative measures to eliminate emails before they’re written, I’m fortunate to be in charge of my company and can therefore dictate our policies for internal email usage.
We don’t do internal email. Unless I’m copying one of our team members on an email sent to a client, or forwarding an email from a prospect, I rarely send emails internally.
Almost 100% of our internal communication takes place within Wrike, our project management system, which I adore. Any task related to our sales and delivery cycle is managed via Wrike, and there is plenty of functionality built-in to provide information, feedback, and even upload files. We also use Slack for messaging and strategy communication for non-task-specific topics. This keeps everyone happy.
Unsubscribe to Marketing Emails
This one is fairly self-explanatory. It’s ALWAYS better for your sanity to take the 20 seconds to unsubscribe from the email list you’ve been deleting emails from for the past 6 months than to continue to hurt the open rate of your favorite eCommerce brand.
P.S. An easy hack for this — search your inbox (or trash) for the term “unsubscribe” and block out some time in your calendar to click through on each one, saving your pristine inbox from future invaders.
Manage Client Expectations
I try to reply to all emails within 24 hours of receiving them. That’s the policy that we have in communicating with clients, and it has always been my own personal standard for response.
The here is that I don’t have to respond within 2 minutes, or 30 minutes, or even 5 hours…
In managing that expectation with clients, they are assured that I’ll get back to them quickly, but usually not immediately, so it inherently both decreases the amount of emails I receive and increases the quality of my responses based on their requests / questions. In general, structuring client relationships to minimize non-essential communication can be very effective in maximizing productivity, improving trust, and increasing speed.
Don’t be a Hoarder
As with anything, don’t save emails you don’t need. If you need it later, file it away, and if you need to respond, do it before end of day. Delete everything else.
“I swipe-to-delete emails before they reach my inbox on my phone, computer, and even my watch.”
Any other strategies I should be using to hit Inbox Zero?
I’m always looking to optimize.
Would mean the world to me if you shared your thoughts with me on Twitter.