Email has become a burden for most of us. According to one survey, people spend 28% of their workdays managing their email. Another survey found that the average US worker spends 6.3 hours a day checking email. When you add up those hours, the amount of time spent on email per year would exceed 30 days! Imagine sitting at your computer for a month struggling with emails...
Of course it doesn’t have to be this way, and you can make peace with your mailbox by following a few simple steps. In this article we'll show you how to reduce this burden and reach Inbox Zero.
How to Achieve Inbox Zero in Gmail
Before we start, let's define what exactly is Inbox Zero:
It's an approach to email management developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann aimed at keeping your inbox empty at all times.
Most people receive dozens (or even hundreds) of emails each and every day. And the majority of these emails are not just for reading – most emails require some sort of action by you. You may simply need to reply to an email for that email to be completed, but in many cases it requires a lot more work on your part. The problem arises when an email arrives that you need to take action on, but you don’t have time. You could flag tat email and leave it in your Inbox, but that doesn’t change the fact that you still need to look through all your emails and locate the flagged ones.
The idea behind Inbox Zero is that you keep your inbox as empty as possible, at all times. Basically, it stops you from having to re-read the same email titles over and over again. The ultimate goal of Inbox Zero is moving tasks out of your head, enabling you to focus on what you should be doing now.
Achieving Inbox Zero in 6 Simple Steps
1. Streamline Your Inboxes
If you’re juggling multiple email accounts, it makes sense to streamline the process and have all your emails sent to one central email account. Gmail makes it very easy to forward emails from one email account to another. Once you’ve done this, you’ll still want the ability to send messages on behalf of these accounts.
2. Delete – Do It - Delegate – Defer It!
If an email is not important you should delete it right away. And this means all the promotional emails, spam and junk that come into your Inbox. They need to leave your Inbox just as quickly as they came in! Don’t skip them by while you deal with other messages – they simply clutter up your Inbox. If they’re useless to you, delete them!
Any message that arrives in your Inbox that takes three minutes or less to be attended to should be dealt with straight away. There’s no point in putting off such a simple task. Putting off these small tasks creates a larger more demanding task, so do it right now. Then archive the email. Job done!
Getting work done is one thing, but delegating is an entirely different matter. It’s important that you acknowledge when a matter could be handled better by someone else or when a matter doesn’t concern you. It’s not only high-level executives who should be delegating: perhaps you don’t have junior staff or an assistant, but you may have a family member or co-worker who’s better equipped to handle the specific task. If the email you receive can be handled by someone else, delegate it!
There will always be those emails that are going to take up a large chunk of your time. What you want to do is remove these emails from your mailbox until you have time to deal with them. With Gmelius you can do just that. You can snooze emails and have them come back to your inbox at a date and time of your choosing. Using the snooze feature is the perfect solution for deferring emails.
Learn how to snooze email in Gmail using Gmelius.
3. Respond to Repetitive Emails Using Templates
The quicker you respond to an email, the quicker it's gone from your inbox. But do you sometimes wonder why you keep writing the same types of emails over and over again? There is a solution, and it’s a simple one: use template responses. Gmail offers a feature called Canned responses. This is limited to just inserting plain text. But there is a better way...
Gmelius offers a powerful alternative called Smart Tagging.
These templates can be as simple as inserting plain text into emails or be more complex and allow you to insert the first and last name of a recipient, adapt the subject line, add labels etc.
Learn how to use Gmelius email templates here.
4. Use Filters and Share Gmail Labels
Why not let Gmail automatically file your emails by using filters, instead of having them land in your inbox? For instance, if you have a colleague who sends you a lot of emails, you can create a filter to label and file all the messages you receive from this person in a separate folder. Using filters lets focus on your important emails and leave the less-important messages to be dealt with at another time, filed out of your inbox.
You can read this article on how to properly use Gmail filters.
Working on a project that involves multiple team members? Share Gmail labels with your team and collaborate on your clients' communications. No more Cc's or Forwards. Apply shared labels in one click to sync specific conversations into your teammates' respective inboxes. Keep your team in the loop without cluttering your inboxes.
You can follow this guide on how to use shared Gmail labels.
5. Delegate Emails to Your Teammates
Look at each email as an opportunity to eliminate a time-waster. Unless the information contained in the message applies directly to you, delegate that email to the right team member! Simply choose your colleague's name from a drop down list to automatically share an email their way. One click to share, two clicks to assign. Accountability is clear and everyone is on the same page. Use internal email notes to add context to each email conversation or ping the right person with a @mention.
Learn how to delegate mails in one click using Gmelius.
6. Keep Emails Short
Many people feel that writing short emails is rude, when in fact many long emails never get read. People simply don’t have time. If you’re determined to adopt the inbox-zero habit, then you need to lose the idea that it’s rude to give short answers.
It’s now your job to stop filling emails with fluff and instead precisely answer them. So, if a question demands a one-sentence response from you, that’s what you’ll be providing from now on.
Other Useful Tips for Better Handling Your Inbox
Turn off Email Notifications
Email notifications can be very disruptive. It seems that no matter what you’re doing, a notification pops up on your computer or your phone. You can’t help it – you’re compelled to immediately check this message!
The solution is simple: Turn all of your Gmail notifications off.
Check Your Emails Once a Day
We often forget that emails are an interruption to our day. And with this thinking, we fall into the trap of believing that it’s rude to not respond to emails as soon as we receive them.
The best way to handle emails is to only open your Inbox at certain times during the day.
Obviously, you’ll use a schedule that works best for you. Some people refuse to check their email first thing in the morning, while others recommend checking emails only at noon and once again in the late afternoon. Work out what best suits your schedule, then stick to it!
Schedule Your Emails to Be Sent in a Batch
Isn’t it annoying when you reply to a message and then almost immediately the other person replies back: it’s like playing email ping-pong! Your email exchange becomes an instant messaging session rather than an email conversation. When you’re busy, this can be highly disruptive, in addition to the fact that you now have a reputation of being an instant responder – you’ll now be expected to respond instantly to all messages!
Try batching and scheduling all your emails to be sent at a specific time.
Gmelius allows you to schedule emails so that your emails get sent at the time and date of your choosing.
Convert Emails into Tasks (with Gmelius Kanban Boards)
Most of the emails that you receive require some sort of an action by you. For example, if your manager sends you a memo for reviewing, that’s a to-do. If you receive a bill, then you need to pay it. That's another to-do.
How handy would it be if you turn could emails into actual tasks?
Gmelius offers Trello-like kanban boards which let you convert emails into tasks. Gmelius boards integrate within your inbox, allowing you to visualize your project and client pipelines, and collaborate on them with your team.
You have a blueprint for de-cluttering your inbox and it should no longer be difficult to tame your emails by applying these simple lessons. Now you won’t be required to process dozens of email messages that are (apparently) all so important! You’ll be able to make smart decisions, deliver concise responses, and manage your inbox in an efficient and effective manner. No more stressing about unanswered emails!