Confessions of an inbox-at-zero fanatic

By Rose Tantraphol

I’ve never met two people with the same email philosophy. When it comes to inboxes, my preferred state is zero. I do not archive anything until it has been dealt with — either completed outright, or moved to our team’s project management system (Trello) or a calendar appointment. 

This means that it is painful to keep my inbox at zero. It is also painful to not have it at zero.
Although I have a Type A personality, I don’t do this for the sake of doing this. As the co-founder of our agency and one of its principals, losing control of my inbox means I have lost control of client projects — and that is never acceptable. Keeping that inbox light and clean means tasks are being attended to in an efficient and timely manner.

Here are my top four ways I manage my work email. (Full disclosure: My personal inbox is an entirely different story!)

1.)  I live by the mantra of no wasted clicks!

I take a no-wasted clicks approach. If there’s junk mail or if I am done reading something I absolutely don’t need to keep, I delete it. If I need to file it and archive it, I do it immediately. Build-up is a time waster.

2.) I use filters.

We all have different levels of emails we need to manage. I have certain emails that I like to read when I have time, but that aren’t critical to getting my work done. I used to let those come into my inbox, deleting them as I read them (see rule no. 1). But when I was pregnant and knew that I would be out for a time after my son was born, I set up a filter to have those emails sent to an inbox. In truth, I might be able to just unsubscribe to those, but on occasion, they still provide interesting reads.

3.) I curate my inbox like some gardeners prune their yard.

I set up blocks of time to project manage my inbox. It’s time well spent, because keeping my inbox low — I prefer to keep it under 50 at times when I can’t have it at zero — means I have a good handle on the work that needs to be done.

4.) I let things go to some extent when deadlines are intense.

But once those waves of deadlines are over, I return to step 3 as often as I need to until I get back to a manageable inbox.

What’s your inbox? What are your top four tips?