Monday, November 3, 2014

Tuesday Tech Tip #15 - Getting to Inbox Zero

In last week's Gmail post I mentioned the phrase "inbox zero" and a few of you have asked me about it. The idea behind inbox zero is that you can have an empty (or nearly empty) inbox by customizing your layout, employing some strategy, and adding a few tools. I find that it also makes responding to email much more efficient and timely.


To make the task of managing email a little easier, start by making these settings adjustments to your inbox.
  • Unread First - Set up your inbox so that unread messages show up first. I make use of Priority Inbox so that I can have the starred just below unread.
  • Conversation View - In Gmail settings under the General tab toggle on Conversation View. This will automatically group emails into a threaded conversation based upon the subject line. This helps tremendously with viewing a conversation that has occurred over multiple emails.
  • Send & Archive - Add the Send & Archive button to your replies in Gmail Settings just below the Conversation View option. This is a quick way to reply to conversations and have them fall away from your inbox.


Once you have your inbox customized, it is time to start thinking about strategy. However, it is also important to ensure you don't get sucked into an email black hole. Very few of us have "responding to email" as a job duty or annual goal, so set a time limit for yourself and remember that while email is an important communication tool, it does not drive our daily agendas. A friend in the Central Valley, Jon Corippo, shared this strategy and I find it works quite well.
  • Archive - You don't need to keep all of your email in your inbox or shift it over to a folder. Simply click the Archive button. The message will be moved out of your inbox, but still available to easily fine with Gmail search.
  • Delegate - Maybe you are the wrong person to answer the email? Pass it along to the correct person with a request that they cc you with the response. Once sent Archive the conversation.
  • Respond - Take a minute or two and respond to the message, but make it short and sweet. No one wants to read a really long email. Once sent Archive the conversation. If the person responds the message thread will reappear in your inbox.
  • Defer - Perhaps you need to do some research and come back to the message later. Star the message and come back to it later.
  • Do - Complete the activity and hit reply to let the sender know it is finished. Once done click the archive button incase you need the message for later. If it is related to a project you need to complete click More and add it to your Tasks.

Additional Tools

After configuring your inbox and applying some strategy consider using a few of these additional tools to make your email time more efficient.
  • Canned Response - Find yourself writing the same (or nearly identical) email over and over again? Set up a canned response that can be fully customized. You can find this feature in Settings -> Labs 
  • Filters - Some emails don't need to be read right away. Set up a filter to have them skip your inbox all together and end up in a folder. I do this for daily news emails from vendors or blogs I subscribe to via email. The land in a folder called "Daily News" I skim and scan a few times each week.
  • Gmail Search - As I wrote last week, I love Gmail Search. It provides me the confidence to know I will find an email should I chose to Archive it.
Give these tools and strategies a whirl and let me know how inbox zero is working for you. Jennifer tried it out last week and was amazed at how quickly she was able to dig out.


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