What is Inbox Zero? Can it help you increase your time at work?

Contrary to popular belief, Inbox Zero goes a lot more than just emptying your inbox of email every day. It’s about how efficiently and quickly you tackle each task your inbox brings you, rather than how long it takes you to manage it.

Inbox Zero holds you responsible; This approach gets you out of your email inbox and back to work as quickly as possible, without dropping the ball on those who depend on you.

The origin of Inbox Zero

Merlin Man, the inventor of Inbox Zero, criticizes our tendency to waste time checking our email thoughtlessly. If you use your inbox as a to-do list or to keep track of appointments and reminders, this habit will likely cost you a lot of time and attention throughout the day.

In his own words: This is not a system – it is insanity. You probably aren’t making the most of your time or your inbox by living this way.

He mentions a very specific type of worker – a “knowledge worker”, someone who adds value to information as a profession. According to Merlin, the two most important things in a knowledge worker’s life are their time and attention.

He describes these two things as irreplaceable. If you consider yourself a knowledge worker, you may find that you can accomplish a lot more after developing a sense of mindfulness about how you spend it.

Divide Inbox Zero Policy

Mail app icon with two notifications.

Inbox Zero sees email exactly as it is: a tube that, as Mr. Mann describes it, does nothing more than get information from point A to point B. Inbox Zero places a lot of emphasis on the content of the emails you receive. By doing so, the user assumes a more action-oriented approach to clearing their inbox.

When we are in the wrong state of mind, every notification feels vitally important. Separating the noise from the things that really require your attention is part of the art of Inbox Zero.

Related: How to Organize Your Inbox

When something arrives in your email, you should endeavor to address the sender and do what needs to be done as quickly as possible. If no action is required, the email should be sent immediately and organized in case you have to come back to it in the future. Out of sight, out of mind, but not out of reach if the same need arises.

No matter what comes your way, you should be prepared with a “forever home” for every type of email you receive, even if that forever home is your to-do list. With a destination already in mind, you’re less likely to confuse yourself trying to sort everything out on the go.

There are five words Merlin uses to describe everything anyone can do with email:

  • delete (or archive)

  • representative

  • Respond

  • delay

  • Do

When you narrow things down this way, you make things simpler for you. There are only a limited number of results; With fewer options, we can work through the stack much more quickly than we would if we were just going through each message individually.

Related: You Only Need Five Folders To Achieve Inbox Zero

Conversion to action, operation to zero

The most important rule of Inbox Zero is that you are not allowed to check your email without “processing”. What does this mean?

If you’re the one who opens Gmail, scrolls no action, and then immediately closes it, you’re probably not doing processing, but skimming. Skimming is bad. It’s wasted energy. You keep less of what you read, and you gain nothing for your time.

Processing an email means turning it into an actionable task or target before closing it. Delete, delegate, reply, postpone, or execute – one of these words will apply. Before you click on something else, make the decision and make the move.

The Power of Habit: What is an Email Dash?

Police What is an email

Someone checking their email with an egg timer.

Mr. Mann asserts that every person needs to take care of a problem what discipline is necessary to adhere to a proper system that is obligatory; A perfect system means nothing if you don’t stick to its rules and strategies.

In this context, he encourages us to reinforce good habits by repeating them – namely, in this case, urging us to check email inboxes less so that the time can be invested elsewhere. The better we do it, the more time we carry on the back end for more important things.

One of the tips he shares includes avoiding the habit of leaving your inbox open, so you can focus on more important things. Instead of staring at your Gmail, Merlin suggests that you schedule email dashes throughout the day. How do?

  1. Check your email exactly once an hour.

  2. For ten straight minutes, process your inbox to zero using the action verbs above.

  3. After ten minutes, wrap it up and get back to work.

This routine can be tailored to your individual business and needs – you may need twenty minutes to process, or maybe you only need to check your email once every three hours. In any case, this simple process will likely make you think more carefully about how to get the most out of your day.

Related Topics: How to Control Your Inbox and Stay Productive

Inbox Zero and a more vigilant day at work

Merlin walks us through a helpful visualization exercise, courtesy of Joel Spolsky: Your Bandwidth is a Box. Your responsibilities, all you have to do in order to keep up with the demands of the world, your work, your family, your friends? These things are like a set of building blocks.

“Every time you put a block of trash in your bin, it means a really cool block is left behind. As much as we sometimes feel we owe to bosses or teams, we, ourselves, are ultimately the traffic cops for that kind of thing. You want to stop leaving yourself with a bunch of stupid blocks to remove from your chest. You better make sure they don’t get in there in the first place.”

In economics, this concept is called “opportunity cost” – when your box was full, what blocks would you exchange for different ones if you could? As a human, where do you devote most of your time and attention? Which parts of your life are stealing from you? What parts are absolutely starving?

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