A cheat sheet to achieve inbox zero and save time

Here are three simple tactics to improve your email productivity.

Reduce input

The more email you get, the longer it'll take you to clear your inbox. So the first thing you can do to improve your email productivity is to unsubscribe.

Free yourself from those ongoing emails you signed up for who knows when. Keep only the ones that matter to you today. Don't overthink it, if you change your mind later, you can always re-subscribe. To streamline this task, you can use unenroll.me to audit and update all your subscriptions in one page.

Auto-organize

Some ongoing emails may be critical to keep for reference, e.g., system notifications. For these type of emails that don't have a call to action, auto-organize them in folders.

You can do these with most email clients with either their filters or rules feature.

Set rules or filters to auto organize these emails in folders that make the most sense to you. So that if you need to see these for reference later, you can do that without letting them clutter your inbox.

Don't check, process

If there's one thing I want you to leave with after reading this post, is "stop checking your email." Opening your email to see what's new is a waste of time—procrastination. It also clutters your mind with other people's agendas over your priorities for the day.

If part of your job is to be available 24/7, then this advice would not apply to you. But if others are counting on you "to execute" more than "to be instantly available," then keep reading.

Here's how to process your email effectively:

  • Consider scheduling two to three small blocks of time a day to process your email. In my experience 11am and 3pm work best.

  • Start from top to bottom, so that if you're looking at an email with a running list of replies, you can see the full thread.

  • Process each email by taking one of the following actions. Delete if the message doesn't need a call to action or is spam. Reply if is something that will take you two minutes or less. Move it to folder for future reference and add it to your to-do list.