How to achieve inbox zero (or get close)

If you feel trapped by your inbox, you’re not alone.

It’s common to feel overwhelmed by compounding emails, while also craving the freedom ‘inbox zero’ promises. It’s not unusual to think ‘If only I could just get on top of my inbox, then I’ll have the freedom to be more productive.’

If this is you, then you have undoubtedly craved ‘inbox zero’. While it’s not the solution for everyone, inbox zero can, at the very least, help you to tame months (or years) of email neglect and allow you to start afresh.

If and when you achieve inbox zero, maintaining it is just as challenging. And you don't necessarily need to maintain inbox zero. What you should be aiming for is an inbox that is in control. This will help you to:

  • Ensure nothing falls through the cracks

  • Avoid being overwhelmed

  • Never become trapped by your inbox again

  • Have the time and brain capacity to serve your clients

Although inbox zero might not be totally possible for you, you can strive to get as close as possible with these simple tips:

1. Dedicate time to get started

Get started on your journey to inbox zero with a time block dedicated to getting things under control. Use this time to understand your situation, and then delete and sort your emails.

Think of this step as the pre-soak of your inbox cleanse—this will make the rest of the process easier.

2. Reduce clutter and unsubscribe

Think about an email newsletter that you receive. When was the last time you actually opened it?

If you can’t remember, it’s time to unsubscribe. And if you have mountains of previous editions waiting for you to read, it’s probably time to cut your losses.

If you don’t genuinely receive value from an email newsletter, then unsubscribe. Not doing so will just lead to a clogged inbox, with the newsletter doing you more harm than good—all before you opened it.

3. Stop using your inbox as a to-do list

If you feel trapped by your inbox, chances are you’re using it as a to-do list—even if you don’t mean to.

Consider rethinking email with a practice management solution with direct email integration like Karbon.

Karbon brings your email directly into your workflows, diverting emails to where they belong: out of your inbox and with the relevant project and client.

As a result, you’ll not only stop falling victim to the ‘inbox trap’, but you’ll gain unprecedented visibility, clarity and control over your client and team communications.

Pro tip: 

If you’re looking for a quick solution to the inbox trap, consider changing your browser shortcuts. For example, if your Office 365 shortcut on your Chrome bookmark bar takes you to Outlook, you increase your chances of getting sucked into your inbox. Instead, update your shortcut to take you to your Office 365 dashboard or calendar.

4. Use filters and rules

A great way to reduce email noise is by organizing your inbox like you organize your files. Create rules that automatically redirect emails from your inbox into folders organized by client or project.

A quick win for Karbon users is the Low Priority function in 'Triage' (your supercharged notifications hub). When you mark an email as a low priority, from that moment onwards, any email from that particular sender will automatically land in your low priority folder in Karbon.

A common way Karbon users find value in this function is by marking email newsletters as low priority (that is, the email newsletters they still find valuable). This way, at the end of the day or week (or whenever they want), they can go to their low priority folder and catch up on any new newsletters.

Inbox zero isn’t going to work for everyone, but getting close will

Getting close to inbox zero isn’t impossible, but it is important to set aside time and make the commitment to simply get started.

At the very least, these tips will put you in a better position to feel in control of your inbox, and focus your energy and attention on serving your clients.