People love to finish tasks so that they never have to think about it again. That is exactly where the inbox zero came from.
Any unfinished task has been proven to distract you from the task that is at hand. That is why in order to be the most productive, you would have to finish everything that would pop into your mind. This would make sure you are not forced into multitasking.
There are some of the goals that you might not be able to solve in one day. Sometimes an urgent matter is taking all of your attention. How do you stay productive then?
The best trick that I found is breaking up a large problem into small-sized chunks that you could do in an hour. This means that after a chunk is done you have finished your mental battle with yourself on spending time on that problem and you will not think about it until it is the next day.
This not only makes sure that your mind and focus are kept in order, it also means that you are avoiding the procrastination that all of us really despise.
What is inbox zero then?
Inbox zero is a natural way of us striving toward a goal to finish the task fully.
In our daily life, especially if you are dealing with people interactions, your inbox will get bombarded by new messages from colleagues, clients, partners and potential partners. This might start small, but letting even a day go by can let to a huge pile of emails waiting for your attention.
So what is the main goal of inbox zero?
There are 2 psychological ideas playing out. Fear of Missing Out and perfectionist syndrome. The mix is unpleasant and brings distractions into our lives.
Our ultimate goal is to not think about the inbox, no matter what we do and where we are.
I see 2 ways of achieving that.
- Thinning out the inbox and setting rules.
- Working on emails a certain, set time per day.
Thinning out the inbox
One of the biggest problems of emails is the amount of useless information and prompts that we have to deal with.
It is a war for our attention, and we are losing it.
I proposed a system a while ago, where we separate all of the emails into a couple of folders.
- A newsletter folder that contains everything that I ever signed up for. This allows me to check out my favourite newsletters whenever I want. This has already been for me a better social network such as Instagram as instead of consuming useless information. I am making my life better with each and every email.
- A receipt folder that in the age of online shopping and SAAS is a must, considering the number of invoices and payments we get.
- Promotion folder. Something that you would want to check if you are looking to get news on a product or discount on something.
- Screening folder. This is where email from the first-time sender end up.
All of the folders above have to have muted notifications. They are not important enough to grab your attention.
The newsletter must be consumed on your own term and at the time that suits you.
A receipt doesn’t matter until the tax must be submitted.
A promotion email doesn’t matter unless you are on the edge of your feet, waiting for one.
And an email from someone you never interacted with can wait until the future. If they required your immediate attention, they would have called or messaged you in one of the messengers.
- The main folder. This contains emails from anyone you already interacted with or whitelisted.
- The last chance folder to which you peg some of the emails that are on the verge of being put into our last folder:
- The folder of doom. You must never visit this folder. You hide it as far as you can, and you forget it ever existed. Any spam, junk or annoying emailers go into this folder after the last chance folder.
The craziest part? Nearly all of the folders that I have been using in the Gmail have been integrated into the base product of Hey!
If I am being completely honest, I am not fully sold on it just yet. I don’t particularly appreciate how it doesn’t allow me to create folders and subcategories. Also, I wouldn’t say I like that there is no such thing as marking email important for the later date, but if you are looking for something that will make your life 100x better, give Hey! a try.
As you might remember, our goal was to make sure that we are not interrupted and not constantly thinking about the emails that are waiting to be replied.
Take it as a habit to get inbox zero in your MAIN FOLDER daily in the morning.
Believe me, if you set everything up as explained above, you will be getting 10 emails per day maximum.
Now, what about the other folders? The most important after the main folder is the screening folder.
There you can find prospective clients, maybe new friends and acquaintances that you would like to discuss things.
Every other folder is fully yours to explore on your own time. They don’t require any immediate attention and will most likely won’t matter if you don’t open them.
Timing your emails
If you are forced by your circumstances(whatever this means) or your company to check every single email, you get, set up a rule that you would only work on the emails 2 times a day for 1 hour in total.
Replying to emails an hour per day already sounds painful. You can adjust that to your liking, but what is most important here is setting up a limit to how often and how long you are allowed to focus on the busy work that others throw at you and not focus on work that is important to you.
Achieving deep focus
Coming back to the initial point of humans wanting every task finished.
The most important part of finishing something is actually the first, initial step.
Suppose that step is not taken. Nothing would be achieved. No result would come, and no real improvement would be noticed.
That is why in order to get to something:
Start now. Get perfect later.