Inbox Zero: The mysteriously wonderful feeling on an empty inbox.
I’m riding the inbox zero train - well actually it’s about inbox 4 or 5 right now. I’m often asked how I do it, so in the interest of sharing and learning more here are my rules of thumb.
Keep your emails short
Nobody wants to read long emails. Keeping emails concise will accomplish more through less correspondence.
Format emails for easy reading
Emails are read the way they’re written.
If you jam everything into a single block paragraph it’ll be harder to pick out action items from sentiments and sentiments for meaty comments.
- An email that’s easy to read will be responded to faster.
- Pull out action items so it’s effortless for the reader to make decisions.
Hit the snooze button - This one is a new arrow in the quiver
Snoozing emails let’s you respond at a time that’s good for the reader. If your pen pal is traveling until next month you can snooze their email until they’re back in the office. I use FollowUp.cc which allows me to control the snooze period by changing the beginning of the email address. For example, to snooze an email to next month I can forward it to Nov15@followup.cc. On November 15th I’ll get my email back with a reminder.
Separate tasks from emails
Many emails are discussions of tasks that need to be completed. If the goals of the task are already established then archive that email and move the task to your to-do list. I use Remember The Milk to stay on top of all of my tasks. I can sort tasks by priority, category, due date, and into separate lists. When I complete the task if an email is needed I’ll blast one back out.
Pick up the phone
I find it surprising how out-of-vogue the phone is — so much stuff is just faster on the phone! Anything open ended, go to the phone. It’s hard to discuss complex topics by email. Often, items without defined constraints go unanswered. IMHO, 15 minutes on the phone is better then 15 minutes writing an email.
To get rid of the unnecessary emails used to schedule the call I use tungle.me. The other person on the call can pick a time that works for them on my calendar and then schedule the call.
Those are my core five. What are you doing to stay at inbox zero?