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How to Get Your Inbox To ZERO and Keep it There

Have you ever experienced a time in your career when you just can’t seem to keep up with the emails? No matter how efficient you are, or how often you respond to inquiries, they seem to continue to pile up? We totally get that. We often hear from many businesses the very real struggle of receiving 20+ emails just during their drive home to their families after a full day’s work.

It has been and continues to be, increasingly difficult to unplug and maintain that coveted work/life balance in this amazing age of connectivity.

Fortunately, there are some tips and strategies that can help you achieve (and keep) “Inbox Zero.” They are:

  1. Answer the email on the first open. This is one of the best things you can do for yourself as you consider adjusting your email strategy. Responding to an email on the first open means that you won’t be reading it several times before sending a response. Of course, if you get an email that requires investigation, but don’t have the time, then this strategy may not apply – think instead about all of those emails that require a simple quick response, yet we still choose to not respond right away. #humannature
  2. Be concise and clear in your response. Emails are not novels. They are not essays or even short stories. Not only will shorter emails be a gift of time for your recipient who can read your email quickly, but for yourself as you won’t spend as much time writing them. Think bullet points!
  3. Read the text without reading into a perceived negative tone. Tone in an email can be a hot topic. A lot of time is wasted reading too much into a tone that is often not at all intended. Of course, when we’re upset by something, our focus is fractured at best. Choose to read emails without assigning tone, (or better yet, always assign a positive tone) and if you receive one that is upsetting, pick up the phone and discuss with the sender. Don’t stew, share or respond in kind.
  4. Create a folder system and use it. Choose folders that coincide with the actions that are usually required. Perhaps a “To Do” folder, a “Needs a Response” and a “Follow Up” folder will do the trick. A “Training” or “Process” folder might be a good idea if you’d like to save information as a reference. Include an Archive folder for those email that you want to keep but no longer require action.
  5. Adopt the 4 D’s:
    • Don’t need to respond? Delete!
    • Am I waiting on information or spare time to deal with this one? Defer!
    • Can I, or must I answer this email immediately? Do!
    • Can, or must someone else take on this email? Delegate!
  6. Ask for help. It happens. Sometimes there is just nothing more one can do to be efficient enough to keep that inbox empty or even semi-current. This is the time to get help. Did you know that we offer email management as a service for those who need help? It’s true!

How about you? Do you have any tried and true tips to share with those who are struggling to get and stay ahead of the email game? Please share!