Achieve Inbox Zero With These 4 Tricks

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Inbox zero is a dream that many people have. If your job is very email-centric, you know that the joy of seeing an empty inbox is hard to top.

You also know that zero messages in your inbox doesn’t mean there’s no work to do, but rather that all the work you currently have is captured and organized. Getting yourself to inbox zero doesn’t have to be a dream. With a few tricks (4 to be specific) you too can experience the bliss of an empty inbox.

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1. Sign Up for Unroll.me

This web service links to your email account and looks for subscriptions or mailing lists you receive and allows you to either unsubscribe from them or include them into a daily list. Instead of receiving multiple subscription emails throughout the day, you can receive just one. You’ll finally be rid of those random email lists you signed up for, and will actually read the mail you want to stay on top of.

This service alone can take anywhere from one to twenty emails a day and combine them into a neat, tidy single email.

To sign up, just go to Unroll.me and follow the signup process. Sanebox is another alternative worth checking out. It’s not free, but offers additional services for managing your email worth the upgrade.

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2. Use the Trusted Trio

There are a set of people out there that follow the “Getting Things Done” mentality. These people are dedicated to getting everything in their list complete and organizing their lives. Depending on your job, email can end up being a large part of your life, so it’s no wonder there is a “GTD” methodology for this as well.

Using only three folders in your inbox in place of the multiple ones many people use can not only clean up your email account as a whole, but also keep your actual inbox clean and empty all the time.

This system, called the Trusted Trio, will give you inbox zero on a near continuous basis, helping you to keep your sanity in a world where email is more common than phone calls.

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3. Create Smart Mail Rules

Rules are probably one of the most underused features in modern email clients. A good rule can automatically file emails that don’t require your response without you ever needing to see them.

For example, if you work at a tech company and get hourly emails about the status of a server, you can have your client automatically hide successful check-ins from the server and only show the ones that need your attention. This alone, depending on the frequency of emails, could cut 24 emails/day out of your inbox.

Get a ton of emails from your mother-in-law that are forwards of funny pictures? You can make a rule that sends any forwards from your mother’s email address directly into the archive folder. This way, you can go back and look later if you want, but if you don’t care, they will never touch your inbox.

You could even create rules for specific people if you routinely receive their messages. This way, you can use a to-do list to check those folders daily. This leaves planned messages like these out of your main inbox.

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4. Use a To-Do List

This last tip is less something you do inside of your email and more what you do to organize them in the real world. Most of the tips above require the use of a to-do list for them to work correctly. There’s a reason for this.

Your inbox should not be a place to store emails or work out of. It should be like the mailbox at your house. You don’t keep bills in your mailbox at home until you pay them, you go get your mail daily and file it as needed.

Email should be treated the same way. When an email comes in file it as soon as possible. If you need to work on it later, put it in a to-do folder and add it to a real to-do list. This way, you have a visual way of seeing what you need to work on.

Ideally use a real paper to-do list as there is something mentally tangible to writing an item down and infinitely more fulfilling when you physically cross an item out. You feel more accountable to a paper list than a digital list that can be easily ignored on your computer or smart phone.

Use a to-do list and take the necessary time daily to file your emails where they need to go. This is probably the single most important tip to achieving inbox zero.

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Wrap-Up

Inbox zero can be achieved. With some attention to the issue and dedication to the method you choose, you too can have an empty inbox and a clear, concise set of to-do items that will push you to focus and deliver the work at hand.

Don’t think about inbox zero as just for corporate jobs. Many people’s personal email inbox is just as cluttered if not worse. Use the tips above to get the email out of your inbox and on a to-do list to get it done.

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