How to actually get to and stay at inbox zero
I love seeing inbox zero or almost inbox zero, it brings just that much more peace of mind to me at the end of the day. And honestly, it’s actually not as hard as it seems. If your inbox is currently overflowing (I’m talking to you over there with the 365+ unread emails) I’ll be honest, it will take a little bit of time to clean everything up, but not as much as you’d actually think if you follow some of the tips below.
Right now the only emails in my inbox are ones that need response or are about upcoming meetings I have. And that’s it. How do I only have those emails in my inbox? Simple. When an email comes into my inbox I do one of these 4 things:
Open, read and respond and label it
Open, read and label it “needs response”
Open, read and boomerang it
Open, read and delete
By doing this I’m able to quickly get through my emails because if at that moment I don’t want to (or can’t) respond to something I won’t mark as unread, I’ll just label it “needs response” that way it’ll still appear in my inbox without adding to that ugly unread button.
I should probably also note that I do have 2 email accounts, one for client/business and one for business email subscriptions and courses I’ve signed up for. It may seem a bit over the top, but it’s helped me stay organized and not get so distracted when I do have to check my email during the day and I see that one of my favorite people is launching a new course I want to take. And I do have the same setup for that email as my business one so the only things currently in that inbox are things I need to download, respond to or read.
Let’s dive into the 4 things I do when I check my inbox!
1. Open, read, respond, label
Filters are an absolutely magical feature in Gmail. If you haven’t used it before get ready because it is seriously the best. I use filters to add labels to emails from clients and some other emails I get that I want to label. Once I’ve finished reading and responding to an email and have labeled (or created a new filter) I click the X next to “inbox” and let the email disappear from my inbox and stay safely tucked in its new labeled home.
How to add a filter
Open Gmail and select an email you want to add a label to
At the top of the screen will be three vertical dots, click on it to have an additional menu pop up, select the option, “filter messages like these”
Choose the settings for how you want emails like the one you’ve selected to be labeled.
Click “create filter” — this will allow you to tell Gmail what you want done with the email(s) in the future.
Want all emails matching the filter from step 3 to get labeled too? Check that last box “also apply filter to matching messages”. Then create filter!
Using filters to organize client emails
My favorite way to use filters is for organizing client emails. When I get a new client I create a new label for them under “Clients” and then I open one of their emails and create a new filter for it. The only thing currently that I do is select “apply the label” and choose what label I want those emails to be added to.
Sometimes a client will send me an email not from their normal account and so a label doesn’t get added, I can choose to either create a new filter for that email address or (what I tend to do) I just add a label to that individual email. When I’m in my email I can see next to the subject the labels that are attached to that email. Once I’m done reading or responding to an email I simply click the X next to the “inbox” label (since it was in the inbox. This will take it out of the inbox and I can then move on to my next emails. Just make sure that either you’re deleting emails or moving them to a specific label when you’re done with them.
Using filters to weed out promotional emails
One great way you can use filters to declutter your inbox is when you first sign up for an email list you’ll get that initial email from them. Depending on if it’s for a newsletter or emails from a company like Target letting you know the latest deals, you can create a filter for those emails and tell them to (1) mark as read (2) apply a label (i.e. get added to a folder) (3) skip the inbox (archive it). What this will do is every email from Target (using that email address) as soon as it enters your inbox it will mark it as read, add your chosen label to it and archive the email — the email will still appear in the folder (label) you gave it, but it won’t appear in your inbox. So essentially all of those promotional emails that you sign up for never have to show their face in your inbox and they’ll be neatly stored in a specific promotional folder that you can go to when you want to go shopping and want to know who has what sales. The only downside of marking as read and having emails skip the inbox is that you won’t know what new email you have so you may miss the big sale they’re emailing about etc.
2. Open, read and label it as “needs response”
This is the key to this whole thing. This is how I’m able to read emails and not let them get lost in the “unread” folder or somewhere else in my email. What I’ve done is used the “Multiple Inboxes” option in settings (didn’t know they had one?? They do and it’s amazing!) and used 4 categories to organize my inbox with.
Want to see how I organize my inbox using Multiple Inboxes? Read the whole post here and see the 4 categories I use and details on how to set it up for your account.
3. Use Boomerang to make emails go away for a bit
Sometimes we get emails in our inbox that aren’t from clients or anything related to running your business, it could be an email from a company asking to have their product added to your resources list (true story, I get these a lot). In some of these instances it was a straight up no, and other times it’s been something I need to look into and actually see if their product/service would be something I’d recommend to my audience. At the moment I honestly don’t have the time to do that research so I use Boomerang for Gmail to have it leave my inbox and come back in a few days to a few weeks when I know I’ll have time to look into it. Rather than letting it sit opened in some “read later” folder that I know I really will never check again I have it leave my inbox and come back later (...like a boomerang). This has really helped me not let those emails take up space in my brain when I could be thinking about 100 other things (like what cup of tea I’m on and if I should switch to decaf soon). Let me backup a sec, if it’s something that I’m not going to recommend to my audience I do email them right then so they don’t have to wait for my response. I know it’d be nicer to email them if I just need to think about it but sometimes I don’t even have mental space to do that because then it starts a new email chain of them thanking me for that and whatever other sales pitches they now think they can send me. So I’ve made the decision to just boomerang those emails for when I have space to respond.
4. Open, read and delete
There’s a lot of emails I get that need no response and have no purpose staying in my email account. Those are the ones that I just delete. I try not to hang on to too many non-client or business (legal/financial) related emails as those do take up space that I’ll need for other actually important emails. Don’t feel bad for deleting emails, and if there was a webinar that the time ran out on it to join, delete it. You don’t need to save things that expired. I do however have a “Swipe Files” folder for times when an email had an amazing layout or copy that I want to remember. Those are the rare times I’ll save those expired emails.