In this busy corporate world, emails are but the primary means of communication. Higher the importance of this technology, the more overwhelming it is. The main reason for emails being a burden for us now is our inability to manage emails properly. That inability reflects in our daily productivity and work satisfaction as we keep getting distracted by emails. Email management for this purpose and more has thus fruited a dream in the form of Inbox zero.

What is Inbox zero

inbox zero

Inbox zero, a concept introduced by Merlin Mann, seeded this idea of achieving an empty inbox. As dreamy as this idea is, it is just as impossible without proper email management. Dealing with everything at once while being productive, is more stressing than freeing. But as Merlin Mann himself finally clarified, Inbox zero isn’t about the number of messages in your inbox at all.

Merlin intended Inbox zero as an email management tool to “switch off” from one’s inbox and to concentrate on the work at hand. Merlin pointed out that most of the time lost due to emails is because we tend to get distracted by the constant barrage of notifications. Even after the distraction is dealt with, getting back to work with the same productivity is highly difficult.

Hence it necessitates the need for email management via the Inbox zero approach rather than chasing a number of emails. But how plausible is this approach?

Benefits of Inbox zero

The chaos around the concept of inbox zero is primarily because of the benefits it promises. These below mentioned benefits are definitely worth the effort required to achieve a possible Inbox zero:

  1. Greater focus: Without all the distractions of emails and their notifications, one can focus better on the work at hand. The attention often stolen by too many emails can now be directed towards other priority tasks.
  1. Greater productivity: Better focus on work, expectedly leads to increase in productivity. The quality and even quantity of work done is better and greater as one gets rid of distractions and focuses better.
  1. Better time management: With good email management, time management also improves. Time management importance comes into picture when all the time wasted in checking up on and getting swept away in emails is now utilised to work and focus better. Time saved is time earned for more.
  1. Better efficiency: With more time and better focus at hand, efficiency of work also increases. With higher productivity at work, one gets more work done in much less time allowing more time in hand.
  1. Better work-life balance: Better time management allows more free time at one’s disposal too. This free time could be utilized for one’s life beyond work, to destress and allot time one’s personal life too.

Is Inbox zero possible? 

As tempting as the idea is inbox zero is, its actual execution in email management is still up for debate. Various arguments can be put forth to deny the possibility of achieving Inbox zero:

  1. Filters take forever: One of the primary tactics in inbox zero is the use of filters. These are used to filter through emails to sort them into folders. Thus it makes it easier to find and sort through emails without wasting time. But what makes this difficult is that loads of folders can make it difficult to sort an email into. The time wasted in deciding which folder an email belongs to, strays us away from the intent of inbox zero. Having a few but broad folders can be the email management solution here.
  1. Carry overs: Inbox zero encourages email software users to go through an email only once and decide on how to deal with it. More often than not, this is not possible as emails can constitute tasks that take much longer than one can anticipate. This could be solved by dividing huge tasks into smaller jobs to avoid overwhelming oneself.
  1. Consistency is key: Inbox zero isn’t a cure of a lifetime. Email management strategies are successful only if maintained consistently. This involves setting out a time everyday to tend to your emails. While some may argue this wastes time, it does increase productivity in the long run. 
  1. Red alerts: Another way of using email management to stop emails being a distraction, is to switch email notifications off. Though this does help one focus on the task at hand, it also results in missing out on important messages. These emails could be termed as urgent or could be any unforeseen emergency. Thus this tactic too comes with its downfalls. What could be done instead, is to have a selective notification system that allows certain flagged messages to pass through. 
  1. To do or not to do: Emails are often turned into to-do lists and dealt with at the end of the day to help manage emails and be more focused at the end of the day. But what it in turn does, is present you with an additional to-do list to deal with. The intention of email management is to free us rather than overwhelm us.

How to Achieve Inbox Zero

Despite all the possible obstacles you face in taking your Inbox to zero, it still is possible if email management is handled properly. Some ways of making Inbox zero achievable are:

  1. Schedule it out

    Email management is all a numbers game. But these numbers pertain to the time you put into your making and maintaining a schedule. You must have pre-decided time periods cut out of your day to check into your inboxes. It is necessary to avoid checking your emails outside of these time windows that you’ve set for yourself. And it goes without saying that you should also set a time limit you spend in your email. We don’t want all our email management efforts to go in vain, do we?

  2. Fight the impulse

    All efforts towards Inbox zero are futile if we don’t fight the impulse to check our inboxes. We have been long trained to respond to every email as we receive it to ‘keep up’ with the world. But to achieve Inbox zero, and some peace, resist this temptation. This resistance will perhaps be your best email management tool.

  3. Investments matter

    An artist is only as good as his tools and so are email management strategies. Acquiring addons like Todoist, Boomerang, Gmelius, etc for Gmail can go a long way to help you manage your emails better, with consistent efforts from the user too. If you’d rather have a more organized email software, you can choose to invest in email management softwares like Mailman which could help you clean and manage your emails for you.

  4. Use your tools well

    What good are tools if an artist doesn’t utilise them well? All efficiency comes to a standstill if you don’t commit to your tools. Using your tools, may they be the best addons or the best email management softwares, is essential to achieve Inbox zero.

  5. Stay strong

    We understand that to effectively manage your emails, one has to be consistent. It’s a long and daily process that requires just a little bit of effort and resistance. But once one learns the tricks to this trade of email management, it becomes fairly easy. All said and done, Inbox zero is worth the effort.

Conclusion

Emails are an essential part of the corporate world. This technology in the form of email management softwares is the reason for our effortless communication. But like all forms of technology, emails too are subject to human perception. We must understand and remember that email management strategies like Inbox zero are effective only if used effectively.  

How do I get my Gmail inbox to zero?

1. Schedule your email management habits well.
2. Fight the impulse to check your emails over and over.
3. Invest in a good email management tool like Mailman.
4. Use your tool and extensions cleverly.
5. Remain consistent in your email management efficiency.

Should you clear your inbox?

You should clear your inbox off unwanted emails like subscriptions and newsletters by unsubscribing. But it is not advised to delete all your emails to achieve inbox zero. Instead use inbox zero strategies.

How do I get to my email inbox?

1. Navigate to gmail.com using any Web browser.
2. Enter your Google username and password in the the Username and Password fields and click “Sign In” to log in to your Google account. The default view is the Inbox folder. Click the “Inbox” link in the left pane if you don’t see your inbox, to go to your Inbox folder.

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