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I jumped on the Inbox Zero bandwagon a while back.
And while I admit there’s something quite fulfilling about having an empty inbox everyday, I quickly began to realize that it was actually slowing my productivity.
Some of those emails I get are actually pretty important for me to look at again in the near future. These emails could be:
- a list of topics I’m working on for a client
- Confirmation of a scheduled interview
- An email that requires a response at a later date
When I was actively maintaining inbox zero, I would file those emails into the appropriate folders. You know:
- Current Assignments
- Upcoming Appointments
- Emails to Answer
I handle 90% of my email management on my iPhone.
Using my phone allows me to tackle email while I’m watering the cows, cooking dinner, and whenever I have a few extra minutes. It just works well for me.
With my current setup on my phone (just using the mail app), I can EASILY see all the emails in my inbox. With one click, I’m there.
Those emails I filed away?
Those take some digging. I have to scroll down past my list of email accounts, and then find the right one and scroll some more to find the folders.
It doesn’t seem like much, but it really adds up. Jumping from one folder to another was even more time consuming.
Even on the computer, it’s the same. It takes more time to scroll to the correct folder and open it up than it does to leave the important email in the inbox.
I knew I had to change something or I’d continue to lose productivity.
What I Use Instead of Inbox Zero
So now I handle my inbox a little differently. I treat it like an actual inbox.
It contains the items I’m working on, that need my attention.
Everything else gets filed away or trashed almost immediately. You could say I have my “file cabinets” of emails to reference in the future. They require a little digging, but that’s okay because I have time for them.
In order to keep my inbox clean, I check my email throughout the day. It only takes a couple of minutes if I stay on top of it, but if I let it go for too long, they really start adding up. That wastes even more time when I finally tackle them!
What It Looks Like
My inbox mail count is low. As I’m writing this, it has three emails in it.
One is a reminder about an online conference, and will be filed away as soon as I add it to my calendar.
One is an email with the three topics I’m writing about this month for one of my recurring clients. It’ll stay in my inbox until I finish the final topic. Then I’ll file it away.
The last email is one I need to respond to, and I’m planning on doing that during quiet time. Then it’ll get filed in the appropriate folder.
With this method, there are emails that stay in my inbox for a couple of weeks at a time. They’re there until I no longer need them.
Even by hanging onto essential emails like that, I rarely exceed 10 emails in my inbox at the end of the day. It stays manageable, and I save time by not digging through folders.
It works for me!
How do you handle your inbox?
Do you shoot for inbox zero, or did you find it slows your productivity as well? I’d love to hear what works for you in the comments below.
And if you’re buried in emails so far that you’ve forgotten what your inbox even looks like, perhaps you need a VA to help. I can definitely help you find an email management system that works for you!
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Lisa Tanner is a former teacher turned homeschooling mom with 11 kids. She's also a successful freelance writer. Lisa enjoys helping other busy moms find time to start and grow a side hustle of their own.