The other day, I received an email from an old friend which said—

I’m reaching out because my husband and I were just talking about how to organize email without getting overwhelmed. I told him that you are the only person I’ve ever met who has an inbox of zero and we are both super curious HOW THE HELL YOU DO THAT!?! Any tips you might care to throw this way would make us both (but especially him) SUPER grateful.

Maintaining Inbox Zero is super easy for me, and I genuinely believe it could be easy for anyone. Here are the steps that work for me—

1. Have all your email come to the same place.

I have several different email addresses, but they all come to the same place (Gmail). That way, I only have to go to one place to see my email.

2. Organize your inbox into tabs.

Gmail organizes my email in files (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums). I briefly scan the emails in the non-Primary folders to make sure I’m not missing anything important, but I open a small percentage of these emails. To create tabs in Gmail, click on settings, then “Configure Email,” then choose all tabs.

3. Unsubscribe from anything you do not want to receive.

I hear folks complain about how many newsletter-type emails they receive, but it usually takes more time to complain about getting off mailing lists than it actually takes to unsubscribe.

4. Answer in two minutes, or star the email.

When I open my email, I respond immediately to emails that take only two minutes to respond to. I’ve found it’s possible to be concise and warm at the same time. If I don’t have time to answer an email right away, I star it in Gmail. Then, when I have a chunk of time, I choose to look at all my starred emails and respond to them. I check my emails throughout the day, but I take this more extended period every couple of days. If I have starred emails that will take a significant amount of time to answer thoughtfully, I put them on my to-do list.

5. Time yourself.

I haven’t felt the need to do this myself, but I have a lot of clients who’ve benefited from using the “Pomodoro technique.” In this technique, you set a timer for twenty-five minutes and see how much you can accomplish in this short period. Setting a timer can help you stay focused, and it can help you to get a sense of how much time you need to allocate to emails and build this time into your daily routine.

I’d love to hear from you!

What has helped you get to or maintain inbox zero? And, what questions do you have about how to do this?

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