Inbox Zero!

Sometimes, I’m horribly disorganized. Ok, a lot of time I’m disorganized. Over the summer, I got fed up with the black hole that is my work email, and reached out to a few people on Twitter for help. Big shoutout to Amy Illingworth and Joe Young for providing resources and guidance!

My goal: Inbox Zero!

Inbox Zero is based on a principles: “process email, rather than check email” and be intentional about responding and relocating emails. For more serious info, check out this summary of Merlin Mann’s Google Tech Talk about Inbox Zero.

My first thoughts were, “this is impossible!” — and with that attitude, it is. After considering Inbox Zero for a couple weeks, I realized that I need to shift my email habits.

Process, not check:

Old habit: My bad habit in the past was to have email open on my computer all day long, and look at everything as it came in. Yes, those notifications on the top right of my computer were very distracti…squirrel! The problem was, I never actually replied to the emails, so they would get buried.

New habit: Email stays closed, unless I’m actively looking at my email, responding, deleting, and filing.

Strategic email moves:

Old habit: Everything stays in my inbox, until I throw up my arms and have a email deleting party with myself for an hour on a Saturday morning. Oh hey, there’s that email from 6 months ago!

New habit: Every email gets deleted immediately, replied to, and/or read and moved to a folder.

End the day at zero:

Old habit: See above. Black hole. And feeling of adult incompetence for losing important emails.

New habit: Nothing in my inbox! It’s like a huge weight lifted off of me.I’ve been in school for 9 weeks, and I’ve maintained this Inbox Zero habit!

Remember, whenever you read about someone else’s habits, you have to keep your own personality and strengths in mind. Just because the above method and tips work for me doesn’t mean they’ll be perfect for you. Take it and make it your own. If you have an email tip, please share it with me.Now, in all efforts of transparency, my personal email is still a disaster….that’s the next habit-changing email project!

12 thoughts on “Inbox Zero!”

  1. I declared my personal email accounts an email superfund site long ago. When I started with a new email address I made an effort to do the same. So far 3 weeks at 0!
    Keep it up and thanks for inspiring!


  2. Kudos to you for doing this! I also appreciate your reminder at the end that different people have different ways of doing things :-). I've tried a couple of different things, but I keep coming back to my own mashed-up system that seems to work really well!

    For my work email, color-coding the labels on emails has been so helpful for sorting out and categorizing information in my mind. For my personal email, I don't do as good of a job of staying on top of it as I'd like, but I try to clean out my inbox 1x/week (even though I check it more often) – that way, it never gets too cluttered!


  3. Worthy, Mari. I've been riding this train for a while, with enough success that I'm still riding. Current hurdle for me is quitting email running in the background — instead, checking/processing with ruthless intent at set times of day.


  4. Mari, this blog post came at the perfect time for me. I planned to sit down and confront my overwhelming inbox this morning, but procrastinated by looking at a few blog posts instead. Serendipitously, yours was the first I opened…and now I have a plan! I'm even looking forward to getting started 🙂


  5. Mari, I liked your blog and it has challenged me to think about how I manage my inbox. I often joke that I hate email because it can end of up driving my day if I let it. As a building principal I end up having many emails that require my attention. Having a better plan for managing email will certainly help me do a better job of managing my time.


  6. I had not checked my email account for almost three weeks and it was overflowing with emails needing attention. I followed the pomodoro technique, set a timer for 30 minutes and promised to focus on working through the emails. It took me two pomodoros (one hour) to finish the job and reach Inbox Zero. Then I read your blog. Perfect timing! 🙂 I think the point you make about keeping the email account closed unless one is going to process emails is good. I need to work on this.


  7. I love your Zero idea. It sounds so much better than the habit of sitting down periodically for two hours deleting! Thank you for Sharing and good luck staying at Zero!


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