For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term, Inbox Zero is a concept where you clear your inbox of any emails. That doesn't simply mean unread - it means any emails at all. I mentioned in a recent Instagram post that one of the ways I keep it all together is an insane level of organization. This is one of my methods.
Before I jump into what they are, I'm going to address what at least some of you are thinking. There's no way I can sort through all my emails. Yes, you can, it's tedious because you let it go too long and now you have to make up for lost time. I get too many emails to get to inbox zero every day. Yes, we're going to solve that as well. You're going to need discipline for this, but I will tell you, it is worth it. You won't miss important messages, you'll feel more in control, and you end every day feeling very accomplished. So, here's how I do it:
1. Temporary email addresses. There are some companies that want you to sign up for their email list to get their coupons. I've never met a discount I didn't want, so of course I want the coupon. But I'm not going to give away such a precious commodity as my email to get it. Instead, I use a disposable email such as Temp Mail. You get a temporary email with a functioning inbox, so even if you need to confirm your email address, you can. In doing this you've cut down on a great deal of unwanted spam and third-party emails.
2. Unsubscribe, with caution. There have been email lists that I've legitimately subscribed to, then found myself skipping them. I always promise I'll get to them later, but I don't. I'd often blame myself for that, saying that I didn't make time for self-improvement. On the other hand, I have no problem finding time for the compelling content. Unsubscribe from the media and companies that you know are legitimate lists and not spam. Anything that has a questionable origin should be sent to the spam folder, so you don't magnify your problem. And divorce yourself from guilt over email lists, for crying out loud. There will be lots of things you can spend time feeling guilty for. This is such an asinine thing to feel guilty over that the idea you'd be wasting any time over it grates at me. Unsubscribe!
3. Use your mailbox folders. Create folders based on your clients, projects or whatever system will work best for you. Once you've taken action on the material in the email, put it in the folder. It can be searched for later when needed. If there's a reason you're keeping it in your inbox, it's because you need to be reminded of something. So, create a reminder for yourself - don't leave it in the inbox. Once your inbox gets cluttered enough it's not going to remind you of anything. The only reason I leave an email in the inbox is if I need to take action on it but haven't been able to yet. Once the day starts I take action from the bottom to the top, to ensure no one is waiting too long for me.
4. Use filters. Many email clients allow you to set filters or rules on your email, so if it comes from a particular person or has a certain subject, it takes an action. A good example is if you always get payroll reports from your accountant and you need to keep them, but don't need to read them before you file them in your email. Create a rule that anything with the Payroll Report subject line will filter into the Payroll Report folder you made in the last step. They will be there waiting for you when you're ready to review them, and they don't have to take up space in your inbox.
That's it! Once you set up your system (and sort through your thousands of emails) you'll have a much better system, and you will spend far less mental energy on this. Let me know in the comments below the first mailing list you're going to unsubscribe from - the one that makes you feel most guilty as soon as it hits your inbox. I know you have at least one!