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I have 2 work inboxes for my businesses, and for many, many, many months (okay, pretty much forever) I’ve let emails pile up in my inboxes. I’ve attempted inbox zero in a half-hearted way before, but never actually done any research or committed to maintaining it for the long run. I reached the point where those unread (and read, but unfiled) messages sitting there were just bumming me out every time I looked in my inbox, so I decided it was time to seriously tackle the task of reaching and maintaining Inbox Zero.

{Experiments Explained}

Aim

To reach and maintain Inbox Zero.

Hypothesis

I believe it will be a challenge to reach Inbox Zero – but an even greater challenge to maintain it. I believe I will need to put protocols in place or I will not be able to maintain – especially when I am away from home.

Materials

  • Gmail – 2 accounts at present
  • Computer
  • Smartphone
  • The Inbox Zero Process

Method

  1. Watch the above video. Try not to be distracted doing other things while watching the video.
  2. File read emails that are still sitting in my inbox.
  3. Delete any emails that I really don’t need (or want) to read.
  4. Deal with any quick-task emails – writing down orders, one-sentence replies, tasks that need delegating.
  5. Add any events or tasks to my Google Calendar to do at an appropriate time, rather than just having emails sitting in my inbox reminding me to do stuff.
  6. The most unfun part – deal with emails that require an intricate task – whether it be responding to an interview, writing a blog post, etc.
  7. REVEL IN THE EMPTINESS.
  8. Change my mindset – from checking my email to processing my email. This is so incredibly powerful!
  9. Process email as soon as it comes in/as soon as I get on my computer/phone. Some emails can’t be dealt with on my phone (well, they can, but I hate typing on my phone) so those just sit there bugging me until I get home. Results in less ‘checking’ of email when out, because I know I probably will get emails I choose not to process on my phone.
  10. Repeat steps 8-9 consistently for a minimum of 2 weeks – aiming for 4.

Lab Notes

  • Man oh man, how awesome was the feeling of reaching Inbox Zero! It only took me a few hours of consistent effort, which just made me facepalm. Why didn’t I do this sooner?!?! I felt a huge weight lift off me, mentally. I wasn’t totally aware how much those un-processed emails were dragging on my mental energy.
  • I feel like I’m becoming a bit of an inbox ninja. It’s a game/challenge to process email as soon as it pops up in my inbox. I currently have desktop notifications turned on (no sound, but a pop-up window) so that brings me over to my inbox immediately. I am unsure right now if that’s the way to go, or if I should turn them off and just process email at certain times of the day. I kinda like dealing with them asap, as that means I maintain an empty inbox – whereas if I were to only check a few times a day, I’d have a number of emails there, and that would feel like more work. Jury’s out on this. Might have to try the second method for a week and see how it goes.
  • Didn’t quite realise how many emails I got each day till I went away (with no reception) for 2 days, and got squillions of email. Becoming more ruthless. Deleting things that in the past I would have left there, thinking ‘oh, I might check that out later’. No! If I’m not going to check it out now, I ain’t going to check it out. If it’s something I really want to keep/read down the line, I need to file it and come back to it.
  • Almost at the 2 week mark – and still maintaining! Getting to be more of a habit now – I get quite twitchy if I leave emails for any length of time at all.
  • Struggling with this on days where I have a huge amount of time-sensitive work to do. I’m also travelling for the next week and a half, so it will be interesting to see how I stay on top of this while I’m away!
  • DEFINITELY finding it difficult to stay on top of inbox zero when I’m travelling. Most of the last 5 days I’ve been working from my phone, so there are some things I haven’t been able to address. Need to get into the habit of filing these things into a ‘deal with later’ folder, but kinda afraid I will then forget to deal with them when I get the chance! Not quite sure how to deal with this.
  • Totally failed during my second trip this month (October). However, have now returned home and gotten back on top of things.

STILL TO COME:

Results

I reached inbox zero and maintained it for around 2 weeks. After that my resolve started to slip – mostly due to the fact that I was travelling, so it was less convenient to deal with my email properly (on my smartphone, I hate typing on it).

Since the Experiment began, however, I have typically kept my inbox under 10 emails (both read and unread) at any one time.

Discussion

 

Conclusion

 

References

  1. InboxZero.com

 

Over to You…

Have you attempted inbox zero? Have you failed, or maintained? What strategies have helped you in your journey?