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How to achieve and maintain inbox zero

Are you overwhelmed by your inbox? Does the thought of checking your emails fill you with dread?

It’s easy to let the emails pile up and promise ourselves that we will deal with it tomorrow.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can take back control over your inbox, clear it out and put systems in place so that checking your emails isn’t such a horrific task any more.

Depending on how many emails you have in your inbox, this could take a few hours or a few days. But believe me when I say it will be worth it in the long run.

In this post I’m going to show you how to clear out your inbox and put systems in place to keep it organised


1 | Create a filing system

It’s tempting when you first start sorting out your inbox to just go on a deleting spree. However, I recommend that you start by creating a filing system for the emails that you are going to keep.

I suggest doing this before you start your clear out because then you can file as you go, rather than deleting all the unnecessary emails then having to go back through the remaining emails that you want to keep in order to file them away.

Take a piece of paper and create a rough plan before you start. Just write down some potential folder names, and sub-folder names, that you might want to create. For instance, if you are a business owner you might have a folder for finances with sub-folders for invoices and expenses. You might have a folder for clients, and then sub-folders for each individual client.

You’ll probably end up needing to create more folders as you work through your inbox, and that’s ok, but it’s good to have a few general folders set up before you begin.

To folders in Gmail (known as labels), click on Create new label on the left hand side (you may need to click More to see this option).

Create new label in Gmail | HollyPryce.com

Then give your label/folder a name and click Create.

Create new label in Gmail | HollyPryce.com

2 | Work through your inbox starting with the oldest emails

Now that you have created a filing system, it’s time to work through your emails and take action on them. I recommend starting with your oldest emails first then working your way forwards towards your newest emails.

This step is incredibly time consuming. Honestly, it can take days to complete, but I promise you it will be worth it in the end, and you will feel like a massive weight has been lifted off your shoulders.

So, for each email in your inbox, open it up and decided what you want to do with it. There are 4 actions you can take:

Delete it

If the email is completely irrelevant to you, or it’s out of date (for example emails about offers or events that have since past), then delete the email. Just get rid of it!

Unsubscribe

If you are no longer interested in receiving any emails from a company, or you have been subscribed to a mailing list without your consent (let’s hope GDPR puts an end to this!) then you should unsubscribe.

What’s the point in continuing to receive these emails if you aren’t interested in them? They’re just going to clog up your inbox!

There is a tool called Unroll.me that can help you to quickly and easily unsubscribe from mailing lists in bulk, but since GDPR came into affect it no longer works for EU residents. Sorry guys!

File it away

If you come across an email that you need to keep for future reference, file it away in the relevant folder. And if the relevant folder doesn’t exist yet, create a new one!

To file your email, click on the folder icon, then choose the relevant folder name.

Folders in Gmail inbox | HollyPryce.com

Respond to it immediately

If you find an email that needs responding to, respond to it immediately!

Maybe it’s an email that you’ve been putting off responding to because you don’t know what to say, or your apprehensive about the outcome. Maybe it’s an email you completely forgot about and an exciting opportunity awaits you on the other side.

Either way, stop putting it off. Deal with it now so you can get it off your mind.

Hopefully you won’t find an email that is over 6 months old that you should have replied to but completely forgot about, but if you do, try not to worry or beat yourself up about it! We’ve all been there.

But that’s why you’re clearing out your inbox and taking a new approach to inbox management, right?

3 | Commit to regular maintenance

The only way your inbox is going to stay empty is if you commit to maintaining it on a regular basis.

Try making it a weekly task. Sit down with a cup of tea or coffee and just take a few minutes to check through your inbox:

  • Respond to any emails you haven’t responded to yet.
  • Unsubscribe from any mailing lists you aren’t interested in.
  • Delete the unnecessary.
  • Put the remaining emails into their relevant folders.

Some more tips!

Here are a few more tips to help you spend less time in your inbox…

Set up canned responses

As a business owner I often find myself sending out the same emails over and over again. If you are in a similar situation then it might be worth setting up canned responses.

Canned responses are pre-written emails that you can save and send out time and time again. And if you use Gmail then you can use its build in canned responses feature.

I’ve wrote a blog post which shows you exactly how to set up and use canned responses in Gmail. Honestly, it will save you so much time!

Use Boomerang for Gmail

Boomerang for Gmail is an incredible free tool that has many features that will help you to keep on top of your emails.

Boomerang allows you schedule emails so that they go out at a later date and time, “snooze” emails so that they appear at the top of your inbox at a more appropriate time, and even set up reminders to chase emails when they’ve not been responded to.

Again, I’ve wrote a blog post all about installing and using Boomerang for Gmail. If you are particularly forgetful, you’ll find this tool to be a life saver!


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Is your inbox a nightmare? Or is it organised? What are your tips and tricks for keeping your emails under control?

How to achieve and maintain inbox zero | HollyPryce.com

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