Business Technology

Five tricks to achieve inbox zero and not let email take over your life

4 min read

06 October 2015

Inbox zero can be achieved – just follow these five life-hacks for ensuring email does not take over your life.

The average office worker uses email for six hour a day. Whether you’re a freelancer or running a fast-growth enterprise, keeping yourself mentally connected to your inbox can create a closed working environment. 

It’s cluttered, disruptive, crowded and can create pretty toxic ways of working. It shuts down opportunities to focus on the more strategic, creative work, and high-value tasks that will have the most impact on your day.

But is it email itself that’s the problem? This fantastic tool is vital to remote business communication, especially in the digital workplace. 

My experience is that it’s a mindset of how you use emails to create a happier, more relaxed and efficient workplace or style. This comes back to better time management, increased productivity, a better way of working. Here’s how you get there.

1) Create an email schedule that works for you

Email is an essential business process and it’s unrealistic to go too long without checking it. But it’s also a distraction. Consider breaking your day down into focused chunks of time, followed by short breaks for email check-ins or a social media catch-up. 

This gives you focused time to invest in your priority tasks while also allowing time to manage your emails effectively and responsively. I recommend turning your email off during these focused slots to avoid distraction. 

Every day is different – but introducing this structure will reap real productivity benefits.

2) Delete or file

Simple as. We have two options when it comes to email: delete or file. If you’ve dealt with an email, delete it or file it. Trust me, an inbox at zero is achievable. 

Don’t be afraid to be brutal, weed out the unnecessary noise and distraction in your inbox, unsubscribe from that newsletter you no longer read. Identify the emails that do require additional attention and answer anything that’s urgent rather than clogging up a dedicated action folder.

3) Spend time with your out of office assistant

If you’re on a deadline or away from your desk, let people know. This will help manage their expectations and free you from that sense of urgency around responding to emails.

Use meeting breaks to hack and process any emails so you avoid that sense of coming back to an unmanageable inbox, allowing you to be present and focused right where you are. 

4) It’s not a to-do list

How many times have you heard “I’m so busy, by inbox is full”? The tendency is to trawl through emails, without getting to the more vital task in hand. 

Stop using your inbox as your to-do list – use a real one. Whatever your preference – a notepad or one of the many, many productivity apps from Asana through to Evernote.

Build a real, manageable task list that prioritises your tasks for the day, week, month, while hacking through your inbox at the same time.

5) Step away from the inbox

Just do it. Many of us have grown up professionally tied to email. We also hide behind it. Pick up the phone or arrange face to face time, create that dialogue and rapport that will build a far stronger relationship than a series of soul-less emails. Your zero inbox will thank you.

Louize Clarke is co-founder of GROW@Green Park.