The Inbox Zero: Focus on Work that Matters

October 1, 20212:30 pm739 views
The Inbox Zero: Focus on Work that Matters
CrafCraf via Pixabay

A productivity method Inbox Zero was first introduced by a man named Merlin Mann in his personal website. Mann invented the concept after observing the transforming nature of emails. Emails were once personal letters “made online” with addresses shared only among friends, but now it has turned into the lingua franca for how you dealt with your entire life. He said, “It was great that people could contact you. It is not great that everybody can contact you with anything, at any time, with any expectation.”

Time and focus are the two most important resources for achieving productivity. Unfortunately, they are finite and irreplaceable; you can never add hours to the day, nor can you do ten different things simultaneously at the same time. Anyhow, multitasking is the enemy of productivity. Mann understood this, hence coined the term “Inbox Zero” to help himself and many other workers in tackling distractions.

Inbox Zero is an email system where you categorize all your messages into limited labels. These labels are verbs that have been carefully chosen so that you know how to deal with any email regardless of who the message is from or what type of content it is. The goal is reducing your time scrolling and navigating through your inbox without doing any actual work.

Read Also: The Ivy Lee Productivity Method that Worth $450,000

Mann’s versions of labels are Delete (or Archive), Delegate, Respond, Defer, and Do. The labels can differ according to your needs and what type of job you are working, but you can always copy Mann’s labels as a starter. In any case, if you can find out what your little verbs are and make sure that you always categorize every email into one of those labels, you never have to deal with emails stacking up in your inbox. 

“There are only so many outcomes and it’s just a matter of you, as quickly as possible, determining which one of those outcomes it is and then dispensing as quickly as you can.” –Merlin Mann

If you are up for a try with Inbox Zero productivity method, let’s jump right into some actionable you can start right away:

  • Set an email system that automatically labels your emails

Come up with your own little verbs to name these labels or you can copy Mann’s verbs for the time being. After listing the names, create labels for them in your personal email account. For Gmail users, you can follow these steps:

  1. Open Gmail on your PC, this will not work on your mobile app
  2. Click the Setting button on the top right, right next to the support button
  3. Click “See all settings”
  4. Go to the “Label” Tabs
  5. Scroll down and click “Create new label”

To automatically filter incoming emails to the assigned labels, especially for recurring newsletters and other mailings, in the all settings tab, go to “Filters and blocked addresses”. Click “Create new filters” and fill in the newsletter email addresses. Click “Continue” and then check the “Create label” box and select your desired label. For the full tutorial on how to do this, you can refer to the video below:

  • Apply the 2 minutes rule

The rule was taken from David Allen’s book Getting Things Done which is well known for bringing calm to even the busiest workload. In short, Allen advised that if it’ll take you less than two minutes to reply, do it now. Don’t wait!

  • Stop the FOMO, unsubscribe now!

Carefully evaluate your email subscriptions and newsletters, if you come across a mailing that you have not been reading for the past month, then seriously consider unsubscribing. Borrowing what Marie Kondo said, only keep emails that sparks joy, this is the right time for you to start decluttering your inbox!

Inbox Zero means zero time wasted on your emails! Ready to get way more productive today?

Another article on the productivity series:Taking Notes for Work: Why and How