Destination: Inbox Zero (and tools to help you get there)

Email management mission

Clocking out when you still have undealt-with emails in your inbox just ain’t right. You aren’t really done until you’ve brought that lingering number down to zero. Every. Single. Day.

Your inbox might seem untamable with its ever-climbing queue. We know how it goes — as the number of unread messages double and triple with each blink, so does your doubt. And that’s when it happens. Apathy. But you know, deep down, that letting an email or two (or 50) slide, is like letting one, two or 50 to-do list items slide. Then your list snowballs into one hot mess.

It’s time you experienced the ultimate digital destination: Inbox Zero. Getting there is like striking gold — but instead of luck, you just need some serious email management strategies in place.

If you’re shaking your head with doubt at the idea of wrangling your inbox until it’s empty, let us prove you wrong with a few simple strategies that will help you organize your email beautifully.

Spring cleaning for your email inbox

So what’s the importance of hitting Inbox Zero anyway? It’s the satisfaction that comes with seeing your job is done. Think of each email in your inbox as a task that needs to be completed. Wouldn’t you feel 100 times more satisfied seeing your inbox empty, rather than full?

If the emails in your inbox date several months back and fall on multiple pages, it’s time to move some messages to the trash bin. Leaving read and unread messages lingering in your inbox is a total buzz kill — you’re not letting yourself relish in the splendor of seeing your work completed. Cleared out. Checked off.

Sometimes the hardest thing is parting with an email, so try using some of these rules to help you determine if it should be saved or deleted:

  1.   Have you looked at it in the past two to three months, or do you plan on revisiting it again? If not, toss it.
  2.   Does it have vital information in it? If yes, consider moving that information to a document or spreadsheet.
  3.   Is it more than a week old and still unread? There’s probably a good reason for that. Delete!

Now, of course, you’ll have some emails that you need to keep, but that’s when the next strategy comes into play: organization.

Filter, folders and functions — oh my!

You get lots of emails from lots of people and businesses — from personal “how are you doing?” messages to urgent business requests. So how are you supposed to manage them all? By creating rules that tell your messages where to go.

Create folders and filters.

Your email is smarter than it might seem, and chances are you aren’t benefiting from its advanced features and settings. By configuring your email’s folder, filter and category options, you’ll make your email work for you!

Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read.

Be honest, how often do you really open and read all the newsletters you’ve subscribed to? Unsubscribe to the repeatedly unopened newsletters that clog your inbox, or filter the ones you do read to a specified folder where you can check back and read them during your free time.

Turn of bothersome notifications

Consider turning of “new message” popups on your phone or computer, for increased productivity. Nothing slows you down more than a reminder that something else needs your attention! Stay focused by eliminating as many noises and reminders as possible.

Try out a few action-based apps

There’s no shortage of apps online — especially ones that help with email productivity. But there are a few that have received recognition for actually aiding users in their mission to reach Inbox Zero. Here are four that caught my eye (one of which I just started using):

mailpilot-2Mail Pilot. This app might change your perspective if you have a hard time approaching each email message as a task that needs to be completed. (Supports Apple products only)

 

DispatchDispatch. If you’re always on the move, this app’s for you. By simply swiping and tapping, you’ll organize, respond to and manage your messages.

 

boxer_iconBoxer. Boxer (my fav) helps you get more done in less time by helping you customize your email management. From quick responses and priority lists, to reminders and contact profile cards, this app helps you do it all (and does a lot for you).

 

Cloze_logo_300Cloze. If social media is another tool you use for your business (but are easily distracted by), then Cloze will be your new best friend. It conveniently organizes all of your email and social media notifications in one sound-canceling place, by contact, company and meeting.

Note: I haven’t personally used all of the apps listed above, but you can check out this post for a more in-depth review of each app and many others.

Do high-priority tasks first

According to the advice of many productivity gurus, checking email at the beginning of your day is a bad move because it hinders you from productively knocking out your to-do list from most important to least important. You can’t simply open your emails without replying to them. Chances are, once you jump into your inbox (even just for a second), you’ll get lost in a sea of text as soon as you open the first message.

Rather than throwing off your entire day’s efficiency, start each day by knocking out a few high-priority items while your brain is functioning at its best.

There is nothing better than the satisfaction of seeing your work completed. And reaching Inbox Zero is like the cherry on top of the digital management cake. If you view each new email that makes its way into your inbox as a new to-do item (as you should), you’ll prioritize and organize it better.

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Also published on Medium.

Genevieve Tuenge
Genevieve Tuenge is a writer, former small business owner and creative director. She's an avid supporter of local mom-and-pop shops, and has devoted much of her career to helping small businesses understand and access the tools and information they need to thrive online.