“Inbox Zero” Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

October 11, 2019

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Most hear “inbox zero” and think of having 0 emails in our inbox. And most of us are so far from 0 that it stresses us out just thinking about it.

But – here’s a fun fact: the “inbox zero” concept was originally NOT ABOUT HAVING ZERO EMAILS IN YOUR INBOX.

It was about spending ZERO TIME – i.e., as little time as possible – in your email inbox.

Now that’s something I can get behind because email interruption is a major obstacle to using your time efficiently and in a way you feel control over.

I work with clients on email management A LOT because of this. Here are some tips:

  • Stop letting email interrupt your whole day. Check it 1-4 times a day as needed at predetermined times. Then do focus work the rest of the day. And turn off all notifications (phone and desktop). Close out of your email software entirely. If it’s urgent, they’ll call. Promise.

  • Stop treating your inbox like your to-do list. Before you open your inbox, decide what you need to do today — and block the time for it! (And this is implicit, but to be clear: don’t check your email first thing in the AM!) Reminding yourself of what’s important will make it less likely you’ll devote your whole morning to what someone else considers a fire but doesn’t align with your goals/projects.

  • When you process email at your predetermined times, if something will take less than 2 minutes, do it now. If it’ll take longer, block time in your calendar to do it and, if you can, snooze the email until then. Then move on to the next email.

So what about you — what are your favorite email management tips to help you protect your focus time from constant interruption and from email-takeover?

And if you love these tips, you’ll love my mini-course on reclaiming control of your email inbox. Learn more here!

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