Inbox Zero

We have many different inboxes.  These include:

  • the one sitting on your desk
  • your email
  • You message apps
  • Various flats surfaces around your office and home where things get placed
  • The pile of articles and documents you want to read
  • Etc

We are good at collecting things into our Inboxes.  What we struggle with is emptying them.

Why Inbox Zero

Every time we look at an Inbox that has things in it we get a feeling of dread.  It is a classic case of procrastination.  We see all the items, so we try to think of something else to do rather than process them.

This leads to the Inbox growing, so the next time we look at it the feeling of dread returns.  

The unprocessed Inbox means you are missing out on opportunities.

Having a lot in your Inbox creates extra mental work.  Every time you look at something you need to make a decision about it, do I need to do something about this now.  By putting it back you are then needing to make the same decision next time you look at it.  

We need to clear out those Inboxes.  By clearing them out you free your mind to concentrate on the important things.  Once you’ve emptied your Inbox you get a buzz of positivity.  You start to feel that you are in control again.  Now start to make this a habit.  Every day aim to achieve Inbox Zero.

What Can I Do?

The key to tackling this is very simple.  Just start.

There is no magic wand.  Just do it.

The simplest way is to pick an Inbox.  The best one to start with is usually your email.

Then follow this process

  1. Make a folder, or folders, where you will store your processed emails.
  2. Work through the backlog.  You need to view each item once, do not pick it up, think its too hard  and put it back in the Inbox
    1. Take the item out of the Inbox
    2. Decide what to do with it
    3. If you can then action the item, otherwise make a note in your task management system
    4. File it away

When going through emails Unsubscribe from all the emails you no longer want.  It is surprising the number of marketing emails you receive.  Unsubscribing means you will stop getting them.  This reduces your mental load as you no longer need to process them.

When you have cleared out one Inbox you move to the next.  The whole process may take you a few days, or weeks.  Once completed you will have freed up your mind for doing your work.

What Next

You’ve cleared down your backlog and achieved Inbox Zero.  You now need to keep everything clear.

This is a case of forming a new habit. 

You need to aim to clear down your Inboxes every day.  

This does not mean reacting and jumping every time something comes into your Inbox.  If you go down this path you will impact your productivity.

The best way to keep your Inboxes clear select a few times in each day that you will check them.  At that time you go through, following the process above, and clear down the Inbox.  As you get practiced at this you will find it will only need a few minutes each time.

The times I try and aim for are:

  • During my morning routine, so I have cleared out anything that came in overnight
  • Lunchtime to process anything from the morning
  • Near the end of the working day, as I am ramping down and deciding on my goals for the next day
  • Late in the evening, so I go to bed knowing I have actioned everything.

Summary

We all struggle with our Inboxes.  This leads to an increased mental load and procrastination.

We can, and must, tackle this to free up our mind.  A key way to do this is to aim for Inbox Zero.  

Regularly emptying our Inboxes leads to reduced mental load.  It also ensures we do not miss any opportunities that may come our way.  This needs an initial commitment of time to clear out the backlog.  This is time well spent to free up your mind for other work.

For a guide on how to clear out your Inbox check out this post.

If you need someone to help with clearing your Inboxes then email Garry at garry@nextactions.com.au or visit us on the web at nextactions.com.au

 

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Also published on Medium.