Inbox Zero is an achievement that a lot of business people long for. It is the ultimate productivity benchmark.
But is it necessary?
The first to coin this term years ago was Merlin Mann. Here is the way he initially described it:
“[Inbox Zero is] about how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life. That ‘zero’? It’s not how many messages are in your inbox—it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.”
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But afterward, people created their own definitions of Inbox Zero. They are not using the term with the same intent that Mann suggested.
Because nowadays many people think the term means that they have nothing left in their inbox. They take it to mean that it’s about removing visual clutter.
However, the Inbox Zero method is definitely not about that.
Fake Inbox Zero
That feeling of accomplishment you get when you zero out your inbox is always short-lived at best. Frequently, you’ll discover that even though you thought you had zeroed out your inbox, it’s not really zeroed out at all. In fact, plenty of emails are still lurking in another section of your email.
Removing the emails from your inbox just means that you’ve cleaned out your inbox. You removed emails from your sight.
However, unless you have really done something with those emails you haven’t really accomplished anything. In other words, if you haven’t crossed them off your task list, or dealt with each one in some way, they will still be in your mental inbox.
So, What’s the Solution?
Inbox Zero is a concept that helps you to complete the tasks at hand without having to think about them ever again. What’s more, you won’t need any paper. And you won’t encounter any stress at all.
Once you have handled an email the Inbox Zero way, you can rest assured that it’s dealt with until the next email comes along. Then you’ll use the method again to rid your inbox of that one, too, so that you can stay on track.
You may always have one or two of the big ones from your inbox that land on your desk. However, you can learn to switch things up so that you can get closer and closer to your goal of Inbox Zero.
How to Achieve Inbox Zero
So then, what is the best way to end up with nothing in your inbox?
The answer is so simple it will astonish you. Here it is: Have no inbox at all.
Think of it this way. The inbox is simply a way for others to communicate with you. Also, it gives you a way to process those communications. It’s where you decide whether to file them, deal with them, or remove them.
So, why not put those incoming emails in your “to do” pile from the very moment they arrive at your email address? There they can sit until you decide to take action. Of course, you’ll have to pay attention and consider what you need to do in order to remove them from your desk entirely. But you will be able to prioritize them and then take care of them in a timely fashion.
Once you’ve decided where to file an email and what to do with it, and then you have taken any necessary action on it, you’re well on your way to Inbox Zero.
You’ll find that there’s no reason for you to store things in your inbox anymore. You won’t even feel the need to have an inbox. No longer will you stare at incoming emails and wonder what to do with them. You’ll simply file them, prioritize them, and deal with them appropriately. You will have achieved Inbox Zero. In other words, you’ll be managing your inbox so that it’s always at zero.
Deal with Your Inbox. Don’t Fake It
When you see something in your inbox, ask yourself right away where it should go. In what order should you do it? Focus on new innovative methods to complete tasks and get to Inbox Zero.
For example, learn to check your email only twice per day. Turn the alerts off. Put your inbox where no one else can access it. You’ll find that if you deal with your email only twice per day, you’ll get far more done.
Whatever you do, don’t put your email icon on your desktop. There, it will work as poison. You’ll be thinking about it constantly. What’s more, don’t allow new messages to flash on your screen while you’re working. This will interfere with your productivity and slow your momentum on important projects.
Make Inbox Zero Your True Goal
If inbox zero is your goal, your true goal, then you’ll have to rethink your processes. You’ll need to find ways to deal with what you need to do so that you get things done in a timely fashion. You’ll probably need to change your filing system. You might need to re-prioritize your goals in order to have more productivity.
This kind of restructuring will help you to focus on what matters most. You’ll learn to tune out distractions and concentrate on what you’re doing while you’re doing it.
Before long, you’ll discover that not only are you getting more work done, you will have also achieved Inbox Zero.