Information overload is now a major issue for many people and one of the main sources of information we have to manage is our e-mail. Working in internet marketing and video production, efficiency and productivity are vital for me, but I found myself losing huge amount of valuable time and attention dealing with an overflowing inbox, and getting stressed out by the hundreds of e-mails I was receiving every day.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Paddy Moogan who through the consulting skills module of DistilledU introduced me to Merlin Mann’s concept of Inbox Zero. Through implementing the principles of Inbox Zero into my work schedule my productivity has increased at least 20% and I’m far more relaxed. I never need to worry about e-mail and that particular flow of information is totally under control.

Why Do I Need Inbox Zero?
Like most other people I know and work with, I had become a slave to my inbox. Auto-checking and reminders on our laptops, as well as e-mail notification on our smartphones mean that we’re distracted by e-mail at least once every five minutes.

Despite the fact that we check our e-mail several times an hour, thousands of messages, both read and unread, pile up in our inboxes, creating stress and anxiety as we feel we’re drowning in a sea of unanswered messages.
Many people use their e-mail inbox to perform functions it was never intended for:

A calendar: Do you scroll through your inbox to check whether you have any meetings or appointments scheduled for a particular day and to gain the details of those arrangements?
A database: Do you search through your inbox for important files or attachments that have been sent to you via e-mail and you haven’t saved anywhere else?
A to-do list: Do you check through your e-mail to see what outstanding tasks you have, or worse still do you send yourself e-mails as reminders?
An inbox shouldn’t be used for any of these functions. It should simply be a place where unread messages sit until you have the chance to process them, and this is where Inbox Zero comes in.

What is Inbox Zero?
Inbox Zero is an action based e-mail system than involves processing your inbox to empty every time you visit it; meaning that you never get overwhelmed by the number of messages you have in your inbox. The first step in implementing Inbox Zero is to define a set number of specific actions you can take to process each e-mail. You can determine your own set of actions but Merlin Mann recommends the following list of actions:

• Delete. Get rid of e-mails you don’t need and archive those you may need in the future in a single archive folder.
• Delegate. Forward the e-mail to someone who is more appropriate to deal with it and set yourself a reminder to follow it up with them.
• Respond. Answer the e-mail quickly with a one or two line response, perhaps giving the required information or asking a question.
• Defer. Move the e-mail to a ‘to-respond’ folder if you need to spend more time on it and reply later in the day.
• Do. Complete the task that the e-mail refers to, including saving files to the relevant locations and adding details of meetings to your calendar.

To make Inbox Zero work for me I needed to get into the habit of processing my inbox to empty every single time I checked it. This meant checking e-mail less often, not leaving e-mail open when I was working on something else, and switching off e-mail notifications. When I do check e-mail I make sure I have a set amount of time to process it.

Everyone has their own e-mail needs, and for some people checking once in the morning, once at lunchtime, and once at the end of the day is enough. For me, spending ten minutes of every hour checking and processing my e-mails to zero is a great solution which means I never get stressed or worried about e-mail but I can action e-mails quickly enough to keep my internet marketing and video production clients happy.

If you think your life is being governed by your e-mail and you think Inbox Zero could help you to increase your productivity and efficiency, then find out more from this video with Merlin Mann

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