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What does your inbox look like?

What does your inbox look like?

If it’s anything like mine, a few emails are hanging around in there.

Okay, so maybe there are more than a few.

People assume that my inbox is pretty empty. It’s not.

However, compared to some people’s inboxes, it is.

I occasionally have conversations with people who aspire to live in the mythical land of having nothing in their inbox. Everything is read, replied to, and sorted out of it.

But that never happens. They run out of time to do anything other than respond to the time-sensitive emails, and everything else ends up piling up.

Two things to keep in mind when it comes to your email:

  1. You don’t need to be at “Inbox Zero.” Instead, you should have it at a level that is manageable for you.
  2. If you don’t put time for your email on your schedule or to-do list, you’ll always run out of time for it.

​All time spent in your email is not equal. It’s easy to say, “set aside time for your email.” But you need to schedule different purposes to be in your email.

Set time aside to sort your email.

You might be able to sort it in 15 minutes, but you won’t be able to read things or respond to everything in that time.

​​Sort your emails into these categories and schedule time for them:

  1. Things you need more time to read. 
    You might put these emails into a separate folder and come back to read them later. Most newsletters will fall into this category.
  2. Decisions to be made or things to research. 
    Will you attend that networking event? What’s the next step for that project that someone’s asking about? Do you remember who we hired to do that thing two years ago? These things need to be put individually on your to-do list. If you leave them in your email, they won’t get done.
  3. Responses that need to be written. 
    Set time aside to respond to your email. This might be regarding the decisions you made, or it might be seemingly quick responses (that never actually seem to be quick).

Set time aside for these different actions for your email and your email will be more manageable!

You might have different email categories on your to-do list, and I’d love to know what they are! Share in the comments.

What to do instead of Inbox Zero - Productivity for Solopreneurs #99: Insights to getting things done

What to do instead of Inbox Zero

Last week I shared why you shouldn’t bother with the Inbox Zero strategy.

This week I’m sharing what to do instead.

The short answer is to find what works for you and keep doing it.

But if it was that easy, no one would have an overwhelming inbox.

Email clients have gotten a lot better about helping you manage your email.

I know figuring out how to get your newsletters into Gmail’s Primary tab is a hot topic and many people worry about it, but those tabs keep my email working for me.

Most email clients have some version of this (an email client is where you read and send email from, examples are Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, etc.).

For example, Outlook has a “Focused” and “Other” inbox.

Use these tools to your advantage.

If something ends up in a folder you don’t want it in, move it to the folder you do want it in.

Most email clients want to keep you happy, so they learn pretty quickly that your Mom’s emails are important, but the emails from that clothing store aren’t.

Having your email automatically sort your personal communications from the newsletters and business/store/sale updates makes quickly checking your email much easier.

It’s the difference between a quick email check that’s actually quick and efficient and an email check that’s distracting because you have to manually sort through so much stuff and you feel like you missed something important.

I have a Gmail inbox and I LOVE the tabs.

But I don’t use them all the way that they’re intended.

Here’s my breakdown:

  • Primary – personal communications, including emails from clients.
  • Social – Social media type and digest updates/emails (Meetup, Nextdoor, Instagram, Facebook, Quora, Goodreads, etc).
  • Updates – Newsletters that I want to read a day or two after they’re sent, payment emails (Paypal, Square, Stripe, etc).
  • Promotions – everything else. This tab is full of newsletters I get that I want to keep getting (although I keep an eye out for ones I regularly delete without reading and then unsubscribe from them). If I’m quickly clearing my email I’ll read the ones that catch my eye or if I have time I’ll open and skim each one.
  • Forums – I don’t use this tab.

One bonus tip.

Do you get emails from places that you’ve ordered from that you don’t want to unsubscribe from (because sometimes you do want to know about their sales), but their emails multiple times each week clutter your inbox?

Create a “Shopping” folder and when you get an email that belongs in that folder, create or update a rule that sends emails from that sender to the “Shopping” folder.

This way, you can open that folder every day or two and quickly scan for any emails that you want to open and delete everything else in that folder.

This also keeps these emails from cluttering up other folders of your inbox.

I shared this for this week’s Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done. The video is below.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #99

Why you shouldn't bother with Inbox Zero - Productivity for Solopreneurs #98 : Insights to getting things done

Why you shouldn’t bother with Inbox Zero

A while ago I was having lunch with some fabulous solopreneurs and the topic of email came up.

One of the ladies looked at me and said “Do you keep your inbox at zero? I bet you do!”

I surprised her by telling her I don’t keep my inbox at zero – at all. 

Looking at my main inbox right now I have nine read emails and five unread.

In my other inbox folders (it’s Gmail so I make use of the inbox tabs) I have 42 read emails and 32 unread.

Why don’t I do the “Inbox Zero” thing?

My job isn’t to closely monitor my email all day

I’ve tried doing the Inbox Zero thing in the past and all it did was result in me checking my email every 15-30 minutes to make sure I still had zero emails in my inbox. 

That makes it very difficult to get much else done effectively or quickly. 

And while keeping your inbox at zero all day isn’t actually the point of the Inbox Zero strategy, my brain seems to think it should be when I’ve tried it.

All email isn’t important

If the goal is to process ALL email each time I go into my inbox, then all email get’s treated with the same level of urgency.

Have an email from a client asking a question? Yes, reply fairly quickly. That makes sense.

Have a newsletter from someone you can’t immediately place? Read it NOW and make that inbox be zero! Well, that doesn’t seem like it’s the best use of your time.

What does make sense is to answer the urgent or important emails quickly now and come back to process/delete/read the other emails when you have time.

I don’t always have time to clear out my email every day.

Some days other things are more important than a newsletter in my inbox, even if it’s one that I LOVE to read.

AND I still want/need to respond to emails from clients, potential clients, and friends.

Don’t strive for an inbox of zero. It’s just not the best way to use your time.

Instead, find or create an inbox system that works for you and keeps your email at a manageable level where the important emails are responded to and the unimportant are quickly dealt with when appropriate.

Do you have any questions about managing your inbox that you’d like answered? Comment below and let me know.

Productivity for Solopreneurs: Insights to getting things done #98