There is a better way, Inbox Zero. It’s by far the most popular technique for keeping your inbox under control.
Getting to Inbox Zero isn’t always easy. The internet is flooded with different strategies to reach the holy grail, inbox zero. But what works, what doesn’t and what’s more harm than help?
We’ve developed four really simple hacks to achieve Inbox Zero. Today, we want to share them.
What is Inbox Zero?
Okay, let’s start from the very beginning, what is this?
Inbox Zero (Created by Merlin Mann) technique consists of cleaning your email inbox every day with the aim to get to zero emails left. In the words of Merlin:
“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox – it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.”.
In other words, Inbox Zero means your inbox is just a temporary place. Your messages come, you find a place for them to go, send them there and never look back.
Inbox Zero Hacks
There are several ways to reach Inbox Zero. A quick research online will lead you to dozens of posts with different tricks & tips.
We have developed our own hacks at Drag, that we consider an absolute must to keep a clean inbox.
1. The mindset change 😱
This is the basics. Inbox Zero is not a methodology, it’s a mindset.
Detach from emails as soon as possible. Organize the remaining ones.
Whether it be multiple folders, multiple inboxes, multiple lists, it doesn’t matter. But the fundamental rules for Inbox Zero are simple:
- Keep as few emails as possible in your Inbox (ideally zero, as the name suggests).
- Label and organize the emails that you need to deal with later.
- Getting things done.
Getting rid of and labeling emails allow you to keep your Inbox clean and organized, avoiding distractions and leading you to focus on what really matters.
So, first hack: forget about the traditional, unidimensional and flooded Inbox layout.
2. Visualize your emails
Understood the concept of Inbox Zero? You know you’ll get rid of some emails immediately and label others to deal with them later. That’s an amazing start.
But you still need to keep control of the remaining emails and their respective “labels”. Where do they go?
The second hack here is to visualize your emails.
At a beginner level, you may separate your emails by using Gmail labels and folders. But do you really want to click on folder-by-folder to search for emails?
Certainly not. It’s a common think that Gmail labels and folders simply aren’t enough for a successful Inbox Zero. People need to visualize their emails in a smart way.
As an alternative, lots of articles recommend the use of the multiple Inbox feature in Gmail to better visualize your Inbox. This is how it looks:
However, there are problems.
1. It’s a waste of space and time to have every single email labeled with the same name of each folder. It’s just duplicated information.
2. It’s not easy to transition between folders. If, for example, a project backlog email is now a To Do, you can’t drag’n’drop that email across folders.
3. It’s so ugly.
Here at Drag, we all visualize your Inbox Zero categories at the same time, through our magic lists.
This is how our Inbox Zero looks:
Be honest: which Inbox is easier to visualize?
3. Delete, Do, Drag.
You may have heard of Merlin Mann’s most famous rule: Delete, Delegate, Respond, Defer, Do.
We adopt the rule of “Delete, Do, Drag” at Drag. This means that every email doesn’t have any reason to stay more than 5 minutes in our Inbox.
This is how it works. When an email comes in, we make the decision on in which of these actions the email follows:
- Delete (or archive): Emails that don’t require any action. If we need them in the future, archive it now. If we don’t, delete it now.
- Do: Emails that require an action that takes less than 5 minutes (whether it be replying, delegating, etc). Do it now.
- Drag: Emails that require an action that takes more than 5 minutes. Drag it now to its respective list and get it done on a planned time (and don’t forget to set a due date or deadline for it).
4. Organization is not standardized
This is the trickiest part. When the emails fall under the Drag action, where do you Drag them to?
Many articles online seem to propose a “magic list of categories” to drop your emails into, like “To Reply” or “Awaiting Response”.
But the truth is that there is no right answer for that. Each person has different lists / columns / folders, depending on the nature of their activities and workflow. Your lists could be, for example:
- Awaiting response / To follow up / Delegated / Action Required
- For today / For this week / For next week
- To Reply / To Follow up / For Future Reference
- Lots of other ways…
Our fourth hack is: don’t blindly follow a categorization someone told you. Find the one that best fits for you!
What are the Advantages of Inbox Zero?
First of all, the fulfillment you get is just so satisfying, but don’t let it rule everything, otherwise you’ll see yourself checking email all the time just to get rid of messages. You have to slowly let the thought of your inbox go away and think about all important stuff you have to work on. When you release yourself from the mental inbox, you truly appreciate the peace of mind you get.
Another advantage is lowering stress and anxiety levels. It might seem crazy at first, but many studies show how these day to day activities change our temper.
Finally, if you adopt this philosophy to everything cluttering your life, you can slowly start to acheive the same change.
What’s the conclusion?
There are many different ways Inbox Zero can work for you. You can use software, hacks… but the most crucial aspect is changing your mindset. Only after you detach yourself from email will you be able to truly live it.
Softwares exist to serve you, so find Gmail extensions and use them in your favor. Our software, for instance, transforms your inbox into a logical board of tasks, so you can achieve it much easier.
At Drag, we believe that by simplifying the way you experience and interact with email will change other areas. We believe in a behavior in which being productive is intuitive, so you don’t have to think about it, everything just flows.
What you’ll learn inside Drag
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