122: How to Get to Inbox Zero with Gmail [Podcast]

by | Dec 6, 2016

I want to share something that has really changed the game for me – that is operating from INBOX ZERO. Specifically, I am going to be talking about how to get to inbox zero with gmail, but most of the same principles apply to other email systems such as Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.

Gmail – Filters and Tabs

One of the reasons I converted to Gmail was their excellent spam filter. My life was consumed by SPAM before Gmail. Now, not only does my Spam go to the right place – but training your Gmail takes very little effort. Simply marking items spam, or not spam, helps move me in the right direction.

Most mail systems have some filtering or rules you can set – so I will not harp on these here. The fact it – most filters and rules do not help you process your email – but instead only help you put it in the right stack.

The key to Inbox Zero is not in filtering your email, but it is about having a process for your email.

“The key to inbox zero is not filters, it is the process. #InboxZero”]

Key Principles for Inbox Zero with Gmail

Much of what I learned came from a friend who teaches the Productivity Ninja concepts.

Key Take Aways about Being a Productivity Ninja with Email

  • Your inbox is not your to-do list.
  • A busy inbox muddles your mind.
  • Think about your inbox like your snail mail – do you just look at it and put what you do not pull out back in the box? No – you process it into trash, bills, invitations, to be read, etc.
  • The key is to process your mail – not read it
  • Email is a computer. No need to have tons of folders since we can search. Make the computer do the work.

My Daily Email Routines

  1. Reduce the mail folders. I had many folders and subfolders. I pretty much reorganized to these
    @explore (read later)
    @WF (waiting for)
    @home (for non-work stuff)
    @work (work stuff)
  2. Check it in the morning quickly. For me, this is a quick scan of the inbox and the spam to make sure nothing shows up.
  3. Clean it out daily. For me, I do once in the afternoon. This includes SPAM.

My Process for Getting to Inbox Zero in the Afternoon

  1. Go to first email. I start in the primary tab of Gmail since that is likely the most important material.
  2. What action do I need to take?
    1. Do I need it?    If no, > delete now.
    2. Keep it? What do I need to do with it?
      1. Waiting for a response on this > Move to the @WF folder
      2. Reference and might want later (many CCed emails fit this) > Archive it (google email)
      3. Need to take action

      1. If the action will take over 2 minutes > @action or schedule an action on my calendar then archive
      2. If I can do in 2 minutes – do it now
  3. Do the next email

What about those Waiting For and Actions? 

Once things are moved over, I work from the actions list. This is where the important stuff lives.

Then weekly (Friday) I will go through all the @WF and the @Actions folders to check status.

If something I am waiting for has not arrived, I might then make a follow-up call or email.

If an action is not getting done, I will reevaluate its importance and may either schedule it, delete it, or delegate it.

What about you?

Do you have an inbox that is under control or is it controlling you? What have you found that works?


Links mentioned in this episode:

Book – How to be a Productivity Ninja

Book – Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

Course – Building Your Own Business

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About the Author

Dale Callahan

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