The Buzz Behind Inbox ZeroThe term and philosophy of Inbox Zero was originally coined by Merlin Mann, the founder and writer of 43 Folders, a blog about "finding the time and attention to do your best creative work." Contrary to popular belief, the "Zero" doesn't refer to obsessively keeping your inbox empty at all times. Instead, it refers to "the amount of time an employee's brain is in his inbox." Email is harming our ability to do smart work -- although it keeps us very busy. It's hindering our productivity and it places the control of how you spend your workday in someone else's hands as you're in a constant reactive state. Some people even get anxious while opening their email, anticipating the unread messages lying there. Psychologist and author of The Best Place To Work, Ron Friedman says: "The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters." True that.
How to Achieve Inbox ZeroSchedule email times & be militant about it Keep your email program closed for most of the day, except during the designated times you set aside for it. A popular system applied by businesspeople is checking and responding three times per day. And if it helps, tell people so in your signature or in a scheduled auto-response, if you can (this is a famous tip from productivity guru Tim Ferriss, author of: The 4-Hour Workweek). This is a great way to manage others' expectations and an efficient way to ensure you are giving your current tasks or meetings your full attention. Touch It Once! Don't get into the habit of opening your email between meetings, reading some messages and then letting them sit idle in your inbox. Read and reply if you can, or if an email does require more thought or strategic action, file it away in a properly labeled folder. This can be better explained in the following system: Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do According to Merlin Mann, follow the principle of Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, or Do, when processing mail. Here's how it goes:
- If it isn't important, delete it right away;
- If it isn't an item you need to handle yourself, delegate it.
- If it's a task you can complete in two minutes or less, do it (send a reply, file the message, make a phone call, etc.).
- If you need to handle it, but reading the message and completing the task will take you longer than two minutes, defer it.
- Needs action or reply
- Awaiting reply
- To read
- Important info (includes all those emails that have important info to reference but don't require a follow-up task from you)