My experience applying Inbox Zero for emails

Using Inbox Zero for work

A year and half ago I attended a Hub Ottawa master class with Pascal Vernier on how to improve my impact per hour. Most of the concepts presented I had already been aware of and applying in regards to project management. The optimization concept that stuck however was “Inbox Zero“: removing all clutter from your inbox until you have zero emails.

I started applying to work and it has since been amazing. It forced me to organize core activities by labels, in majority a breakdown of:

  • Content changes required
  • [Colleague] task dependent
  • Deadline required
  • Urgent – Action required (this one is in red)

Additional benefit from the rigorous methodology are seen when you have to act immediately on emails to sustain the habit. I’ve effectively unsubscribed from all annoying email sources, I archived all 13 000 past emails that have no action required* and reply in a timely manner.

Think about it. What if you could also stop receiving those annoying emails with content you don’t really care for? It feels pretty good.

Making the transition for personal email

It took me an entire year to realize that my personal emails still basked in cluttered organized chaos. It contrasted with my clean unobstructed, non-distracting email account from work.

Another factor that seemed to escape me was that with an ever more mobile friendly approach to technology, having less emails in your inbox means less real-estate wasted on your smaller screen. Regardless of the device you are using to read your emails, you should get in the habit of always cleaning your inbox right away.

I’ve been using the inbox zero trick on my personal accounts and my after-work hours productivity soared. Both my work and personal email still rely heavily on archived and indexed content, allowing me to search back in time by content filters. At the end of the day, the lesson is that if  certain concepts work pleasantly in your professional life, you should take the time to recognize and optimize your personal life as well if you work with separate tools and platforms.

Additional resources:

Gmail: *For gmail: select all your emails using a search-selection filter and then archive the messages.

Make Outlook 2007/2010/2013 search ALL folders instead of just the current folder (indexing): http://www.standss.com/blog/index.php/outlook-20072010-search-folders-current-folder/