Top 5 ways to get to inbox zero

Inboxes are flooded with emails every day, and it can be a difficult task to sort through them all. Tom Merritt offers five tips for emptying that inbox.

Top 5 ways to get to inbox zero

Email is many people's bane--they stare at the inbox filled with hundreds of messages and their courage fails, causing them to forsake their friends and break all bonds of fellowship. But it does not have to be this way. Here are five tips to get to inbox zero. (Note: This article about the top five ways to get to inbox zero is available as a free PDF download.)

  1. Take them one at a time: If you think you need to address all your emails, you will likely run in terror. Just focus on taking care of one email, then the next, then the next.
  2. Do something with each email: It may be to respond, it may be to schedule a to-do list to respond, it may be to archive it or even delete it... it may be to snooze it. Whatever it is, take an action with it that lets you get it out of the inbox.
  3. Write less: When you respond, try to limit yourself to five sentences or less. If an email needs more than that, it's a project, not a reply, and you should schedule it as such.  Concise emails will be more likely to be read and understood too.
  4. Stop repeat offenders: If you find you constantly delete a newsletter or alert, unsubscribe. Yes, it will take a minute to do that, but the next several times you don't need to look at it and decide to delete it will make it worthwhile. If you can't unsubscribe, use filters to redirect less necessary emails out of the inbox.
  5. Make email a task: Don't constantly live in your inbox--set aside time to deal with email. Yes, there will be those times when you need to watch out for an important message, but that should be the exception, not the rule. Also, you don't need notifications for email--turn it off.

These aren't the only five things you can do, but they'll get you closer to a manageable inbox. If you want to keep going down this road to the nirvana of inbox zero, check out 11 ways to hit inbox zero by Olivia Krauth.

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Image: iStockphoto/MissTuni

By Tom Merritt

Tom is an award-winning independent tech podcaster and host of regular tech news and information shows. Tom hosts Sword and Laser, a science fiction and fantasy podcast, and book club with Veronica Belmont. He also hosts Daily Tech News Show, coverin...