How Do I Get to "InboxZERO"?

  • Posted by: J. Kent Gervasini |
  • 12/8/16 |
  • 2:05 AM
How Do I Get to "InboxZERO"?

An overwhelming volume of advice is available on how to manage e-mail more effectively and I have read many of them.  But I still ask myself, “Can I really get to “Inbox ZERO”— is it realistic, achievable and attainable for those that do not have Executive Assistants to manage their corporate inbox?  I have concluded that I will never get to “InboxZERO” so, how do I do a better job managing what has become my daily nemesis?

Phone, Email, Text
I fully understand that email is an extremely useful communication tool, not only in business but also in our personal lives.  In that regard, I have found that if a parent wants to connect with their 8 year old or a millennial, one will soon learn that texting is the only way to go.  Don’t call, don’t email, just text the MSG with the instruction--NRN (no reply necessary) or LMK (let me know). Is that how I get to “Inbox ZERO”?

Email is a 21st Century Technological Wonder
Email is less intrusive than a phone call; it is convenient and fast.  As an entrepreneur, business executive, or CEO we all manage hundreds of emails a day.  Email capability empowers us to run our business from just about anywhere so a cluttered email inbox—filled with old, unopened or unimportant messages--distracts and frustrates me to such an extent that it saps my energy and productivity.

So it’s Time to Get to “InboxZERO”
So it is time to get to InboxZERO and here are a few tips from websites like Harvard Business Review, Entrepreneur, Real Simple that I have incorporated into my daily email management routine.

As a Recipient - Action Items

  1. Unsubscribe From Unwanted Promotion Emails
    Just do it! Clean out the clutter
  2. Schedule Email Review 
    In most business environments constant communication is crucial and establishing a tight schedule may not be realistic. But that first 10 minute check in the am and last 10 minute check in the pm is critical. Most importantly, connect with your email before you leave the office, especially if you do not check after hours
  3. Message Evaluaton
    Browse the inbox for emails that can be immediately deleted such as spam or promotion emails. Select messages that don't require a response and delete or archive them
  4. Organize Before You Read
    For example, if you are working on a project with somone, in the search box, type in their name or email address and you will chronologically have all their email together.  
  5. Once You Read a Message, File or Delete It
    Just like working with paper...use the TPO method..."touch paper once"
  6. Set-Up Inbox With Categories and Labels
    But beware, your inbox is not your contacts – take time to set up your “contacts”….it will save time …scrolling through your inbox categories is not as efficient as a search in MS Outlook
  7. Respond Now or Notify - A Timely Response
    If you won’t be able to respond to an e-mail for several days, acknowledge receipt and tell the sender when you’re likely to get to it

As a Sender - Action Item

  1. Write a Clear Subject Line
    Make messages easy to digest by writing a clear subject line and starting the body with the key point. Use boldface headings, bullet points, or numbering to highlight action items – and to note who’s responsible for each one.
  2. Short Clear Messages - "Use the Power of the Subject Line"
    To eliminate the need for recipients to open very short messages, put the entire contents in the subject line, followed by “eom” (end of message). Write succinct, relevant emails….I am really working on this one, getting better….but good to great, I am not there.
  3. Whenever Possible, Paste the Contents of an Attachment into the Body of the Message
  4. Scheduling Appointments - Do It Through MS Outlook, Not Email
    I have found that there is a lot of email ping pong in trying to schedule an appointment. For example, I get an email that says: “I am free on Mon at 1:00 pm, Tues at 8:00 am, Thurs at 10:00 am and not available on Friday.  Will any of those times work for you?  Wow, now I am managing another person’s calendar through email when I can barely keep up with my own and the back and forth email process continues.

    Here is a thought!  When possible, why not use the power of MS Outlook and stay within that software as you come to consensus? Use your leadership skills to schedule a specific time that works for you and in the message section of Outlook say:

    Hi Sam:

    *It was great to talk to you about the project and I look forward to further discussion
    *If this times works for you, please accept, if not, please suggest an alternate time through MS Outlook

    Thank you.

  5. Stop and Consider Before You Choose "REPLY ALL"
    Before you choose “reply to all,” stop and consider the e-mail burden that your choice places on each recipient. If you wouldn’t be able to justify that burden, remove the recipient from the send list.
  6. No More Than 20 Items in Your Inbox - Are You Kidding?

Communicating the Old Fashion Way - A Face to Face Conversation
I understand, in some roles, like that of our Denver Recruiters and Staffing Managers at J. Kent Staffing, email sends and receives are a constant and necessary form of communication.  However, there are times when I make a deliberate effort to remove my hands from the keyboard, remove my headset and get out of my office and communicate the old fashioned way…sitting next to someone in a real human conversation.

So Will I Ever Get to InboxZERO….Maybe; Maybe Not?
In the meantime, on behalf of J. Kent and its entire staff we wish each of you and your families a healthy, happy and peaceful holiday season where your email load may be light, succinct and relevant.

Source: Harvard Business Review, "Death By Information Overlaod, by Paul Hemp, Sept. 2009 Issue, Entrepreneur

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