The 3-Step Guide to Achieving Inbox Zero

Guide to Achieving Inbox Zero

Three or four years ago, we saw the new inbox zero trend emerge and take over the world. There is a change you might have heard your favorite blogger praise achieving inbox zero every day. 

But this was years ago. 

Has this trend died out today?

Definitely not. 

You can still see digital magazines and bloggers try this approach and speculate about its effectiveness. Zapier, for instance, tried to objectively explore the impact of inbox zero on productivity. The author tried this approach, weighing the pros and cons of this approach, and why it might not be working for certain people. 

In conclusion, however, the author of this article admitted that inbox zero works most of the time. 

So, What’s All the Hype About?

Let us remind you what the inbox zero approach is about. 

Inbox zero is a method in email management. It’s all in the name – you should get no emails (or almost no emails) as a result. 

The approach originates from the book by Merlin Mann, a well-known productivity expert, which was published back in 2014. There are five actions that Mann recommends to follow to achieve inbox zero:

  • Delete: you need to get rid of (or archive) emails that serve no further purpose
  • Delegate: if someone else can answer the email better, forward it to them. 
  • Respond: you need to respond immediately to emails and not keep them open. 
  • Defer: move the messages that will take some time to respond to a separate category.
  • Do: make sure you set time to emails that require a timely response. 

Following this approach especially helps those who’re running a freelance business and regularly communicate with dozens of clients. 

The implementation of this approach, however, takes far more than following these actions. 

Here’s our 3-step guide to achieving inbox zero.

Step #1: Adopt the Right Attitude 

Right now, there is a big chance that your inbox has at least 20 unread messages. If yes, you need to adopt the right attitude for the inbox zero approach. 

Here’s where you can start.

  • Understand that your inbox is a communication method. Right now, you probably can compare your inbox to a trash cabinet, where you keep miscellaneous items, which you never really clean. “To get to the zero inbox, you need to start treating your email as a means of communication and react to every email you get,” says Neightan White, a marketing specialist at SupremeDissertations
  • Keep in mind that you’ll have to follow this method every day. This is not a one-time-only approach, inbox zero method is like an exercise you will have to devote your time to every day. 
  • Adopt the clear-of-clutter mindset. You might have noticed how a clutter on your table always distracts you from getting the job done. Cluttered inbox works the same way. The more unread and unanswered emails you have, the less productive you will be

The inbox zero approach is all about establishing a routine and adopting the right attitude to follow through with this routine every day.

Step #2: Work Out the Schedule

How often should you sort your emails? When is the right time to do it?

One of the biggest mistakes beginners make is sorting their emails every time they get an alert. Instead of boosting productivity, you take it away from you. The study by the American Psychological Association has shown that multitasking like this can cost us 40% of our productivity. 

This doesn’t mean, however, that you should dedicate your evening to de-cluttering your entire inbox. There is a chance that you won’t be done until morning. 

Instead, dedicate a few minutes every two to three hours. This should be enough to follow through with the five-step approach to cleaning your inbox that we mentioned above. 

Step #3: Automate! 

This third step will help you spend less time on archiving, forwarding, and answering your emails. Thus, it will take you less time to achieve inbox zero

If you use Gmail, you can create auto-replies by going to Settings, clicking on Advanced Settings, and enabling the Templates option:

Next time, when you need to send an autoreply, you can create a template for it in a Compose toolbar:

If you use Gmail or any other email service, you can also get autoreply templates from Mailbutler service, which will help increase your productivity and cut the number of emails in your inbox

There are, however, quite a few things to keep in mind to make your emails look professional

First of all, you need to pay attention to the subject line and the body of your email. 

  • Create a straightforward subject line. It should not be vague and should reflect the purpose of the email. 
  • Cut to the chase. When it comes to the body of your email, you should also make it short and straightforward. Two or three sentences will be enough for an average template. 
  • Make it a tad more personal. One of the ways you can do it is by adding your personal information in case the person needs your urgent response. 

To make the body of your autoreply email brief, yet professional, check it for wordiness with online tools like TrustMyPaper, Studicus, or Hemingway App. This will help you exclude unnecessary information and communicate the message correctly

Getting to inbox zero also presupposes replying to urgent emails, which you will have to do every two or three hours. 

To speed up this process, you can download Chrome extensions like Grammarly or Easy Mail that will help you draft emails quicker and mistake-free. 

Following these simple steps will help you quickly manage your incoming emails and achieve inbox zero. 

Be Persistent 

Working on achieving inbox zero on a daily basis brings you a lot of benefits in the long run:

  • With this approach, you won’t miss important emails in the pile of unread messages. 
  • Recipients won’t wait forever for your response. 
  • If you’re a freelancer, unread emails won’t create a bottleneck in your business. 

On top of that, cluttered inbox won’t cause you unnecessary stress, and you won’t lose productivity paying attention to every email alert. 

Work out the inbox zero schedule and benefit from email automation to answer and categorize emails faster. 

But more importantly, adopt the attitude that will help you follow through with this method every day. The inbox zero method requires consistency, so be persistent and follow the schedule. 


About the Author

Marques Coleman is a professional writer, a blogger at GrabMyEssay and BestEssay Education, and a contributing editor at WowGrade. He is interested in marketing and PR and is currently studying to get his Master’s degree in Digital Marketing. 


Would you like to achieve Inbox Zero? Download Mailbutler for Apple Mail, Gmail or Outlook and boost your email productivity!


Do you want to learn more about how to successfully run your company? Read this interesting article “10 Tips to Successfully Start and Run a Professional Company” from our guest contributor Amanda Jerelyn.

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