Inbox Zero method
We receive and send more and more messages from our mailboxes. Email is still the main channel of communication, but today new sources such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Slack, Teams… are becoming more and more important. This information, like our workloads, is not decreasing and our feeling of overwhelm is increasing.
To manage everything successfully, you need change the way you work and adapt to changes.
In this article, we’ll share with you the best practices that you can easily implement. You already know some of them, but put together, they are awesome!
Inbox Zero Application
You want to use an application to process your messages with the inbox Zero method, discover Unipile specially designed for this purpose.
Why the Inbox Zero Method?
The Inbox Zero is a very simple system that aims to to have no more emails or messages to handle in his inbox. It’s a method to improve its productivity and serenity in the running of its daily life.
Does this mean that everything must be done immediately? No, not at all!
This idea is: “I am in control by choosing what I handle now because I gave myself time to do it and what I schedule in my agenda to do it later. I am in command!”
Having an organized inbox, under control, without chaos is one of the keys to serenity!
Inbox Zero or Zero Inbox?
The 2 expressions are very often used in the various analyses of this method. Inbox Zero is the English term and Zero Inbox is a derivative often used by the French. The first articles on this method were written by English speaking authors. So if you want to know more about this subject, use the keywords Inbox Zero in your research.
How to set up the inbox zero method?
This method is not complicated, in fact, it is very simple. It’s just common sense that you are probably already using today. Follow the guidelines below, everything will be much clearer:
What are the rules for organizing my inbox? ⚡
1. The Read/Unread concept no longer exists, everything in the inbox has to be handled. This prevents you from reading an email on your mobile phone (change his state to read) and not knowing what is to be done or not when you come back on your computer.
2. Stop creating folders / subfolders in your email folder tree. Create only one: Archive. You will use only 2 folders, Inbox and Archive. You think you won’t find anything between client emails, your competition survey, articles to be read one day, etc. But search tools are powerful enough to identify the searched messages!
3. Nothing “done” must remain in your inbox. A completed message (replied or performed the associated action) is archived.
4. A message in progress (you planned to reply to it at a later time/date) is also Archived. You created a task in your calendar that specifies the action to be taken.
5. The only messages left in your inbox are what you haven’t yet reviewed to determine what action to take.
6. Emails that you keep to read one day… or those with information that you think is interesting but not useful right now etc. You have to archive them too. If the information is relevant then it should be treated as such, the information is assimilated right now (trust yourself you will remember). Feel free to share or delegate this information to others if it does not concern you directly. Finally, classify it or list it in your system, but you could fall into other deviations where we create dozens of documents that might never be used at the end… Huge topic!
7. Long tasks are listed in Trello or other task management tool. All quick tasks (can be done within a day or the week) like replying to an email, calling a client, etc. are not listed in Trello but created in your calendar as tasks/events
8. If you have several mailboxes to manage, group in a email client like Outlook or a webmail like Gmail. In this case, you choose one of the folders Inbox + Archives to be your main one. If you have an email pending in another inbox, you will move it to the main folder in order to avoid searching continually between your inboxes.
9. There’s not only email! How do you manage your information channels like SMS, WhatsApp, Linkedin etc.?
Managing inboxes from instant messaging is more complicated and not suitable to integrate with Inbox + Archives management. If you have an action to do following an incoming message, you can create a task in your calendar right after. If you don’t have the possibility to handle the information immediately, forward you the message by email. You will integrate the informaton into your email to-do flow.
10. Turn off notifications…as much as possible! One habit working well is to turn off notifications of new emails received on PC and Mobile, same for collaborative tools like Slack or Teams. Leave active your information feeds tagged as Urgent like Calls / SMS / WhatsApp. Get organized to check your inboxes at specific times. The goal is to read your new messages when you decide and not when the tools decide… that’s a big difference.
Switch to Inbox Zero for your Emails, SMS, WhatsApp, Linkedin…
Unipile brings all your messages together in the same inbox to make it easier for you to organize your day.
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How to plan your day simply? 🎯
The idea is to work in specific blocks of time. Generally speaking, we are most efficient when we cut out 20-minute blocks of work. But in reality, it is up to you to adapt the duration according to your organization, your rhythm, and your tasks.
The idea is to work in specific blocks by grouping tasks with the same topic or category. Generally, a block can last between 10 minutes and 60 minutes (based on the Pomodoro Technique). For example, I block out 30 minutes to process 6 email replies I have to do. The objective is to limit the time in order to give yourself a rhythm and force to split your day.
The more we visualize what we have to do, the more efficiently we can work.
Our day is rythmed by 3 main time periods, the idea is to organize our day according to them.
✅ The Organization
You don’t have to spend your time watching your messages come in. You block yourself a dedicated time to check for new messages. You will decide to manage what can be done very quickly (less than 10 minutes) or what needs to be planned (more than 10 minutes to be completed). Depending on your habits, you can block organization time at the beginning of your day, another one around 11:00 am, one at 2:00 pm, and the last two between 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm.
In some professions, like Client Services, part of the job consists of quickly processing incoming emails or messages. But you can apply in the same organization, you just have to plan to check your inboxes/messages more regularly (1 time per hour, 3 times per hour…). The goal is always to stay focused and in control!
There is no point in spending all your time on your inbox refreshing and watching messages pop up over and over again… The inbox is a disturbing element in our organization and must be considered as such. We must protect ourselves from it. You and only you decide when you look at the incoming messages, this is the first step to find serenity.
✅ The Production
This is the most important time! You generate your added value,where you will express your know-how.
We all have tasks to do, emails to send, meetings to keep, etc. The objective is to break down these actions into sub-tasks and group them by theme.
For example, you could define a block: Answer emails OR Work on the Customer quotations, etc. But don’t set up a 4-hour block of time with the theme Working on the HR file. It doesn’t work!
Handling long tasks First, you have to analyze and split the tasks. It’s easier to get motivated and feel in control when you have 9 tasks to do in 20 minutes rather than a big one in 3 hours! This slicing and managing are performed during your organization time. If I receive a call from a client or if I have to prepare a presentation of my activity, I don’t create a to-do: “make a PowerPoint”. I divide it into specific and time-limited tasks. In any case, you can readjust as you go along. You simplify your approach. You thought about it, wrote it down, and planned it, which means that you are committed to doing it. Your mindset is no longer the same.
In order to accomplish these long tasks, I try to regularly schedule a minimum of one hour of deep work where I will not be disturbed or interrupted. This allows me to move forward more quickly.
✅ Free Time and Unexpected
Between each block of 10 to 60 minutes, you have to set a ‘free’ time moment, proportional to the block of time passed. There are no precise rules, it’s up to you. But basically, if I’ve just spent 60 minutes on a subject, I give myself at least 5 minutes to do something else (don’t look at your inbox!). The idea is to do something validating the end of this period like drinking a coffee, taking a bathroom break, surfing the net etc. I help my brain to move on.
Don’t plan a full day either, you need to allow time for the unexpectedWe all know that a day never turns out the way we imagined it, so we might as well plan for it! You can block a dedicated time in your day for these unexpected actions or leave some free space to integrate them.
How to implement this method to manage your day effectively? 🔧
Getting started is very simple, you can start without any difficulty. You have everything you need to start working in Zero Inbox.
✅ Choose the right tools
– You can use your webmail (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo…) or your current email client (Outlook, Thunderbird). If you have more than one, choose one that will be the main tool. If you don’t know which one to choose, we have made a comparison of the best email clients, you can read the article here.
– Use your calendar (Google Calendar, Microsoft Outlook or other)
– Choose a task management tool (Trello or other), which you will use to list main tasks.
You can test our application Unipile designed to centralize your messaging app, organize your work and apply natively the Inbox Zero method to all your messages.
✅ Start without any pressure
The goal is to start simply, without trying to turn your entire organization upside down overnight. You have to start gradually. Each step of progress is important. Basically, you tell yourself that this morning I will answer these emails between such and such a time. At 10:00 a.m. I have a meeting that will last 1 hour and so on. You don’t have to be precise at the beginning.
The idea is to get into the habit of giving yourself time to analyze what you have to do, to split your tasks into blocks, and plan your whole day in your calendar.
With an empty inbox, being in Zero Inbox, you will have a clear vision. With an organised agenda containing everything you have to do, you will be able to project yourself. The only objective of this Inbox Zero method is to reduce the impact of the information flows that we all experience every day.
Even if we have a lot of things to do in a day, seeing items written down and organized gives us a feeling of control. Ok, I have all this to do, but I know what I have to do and when! That’s the difference.
Managing messages, tasks and the agenda in your professional or personal life is often a challenge! We created Unipile to bring back control in the management of our day. All these methods are included, automated, and simplified in our application: we have group all messages like emails, SMS, WhatsApp, Linkedin etc. in one single inbox. Planning the treatment of a message or a task can be done by dragging the item into the calendar. To make our daily life even easier, we have also added features to avoid forgetting planned actions, alert you when you have not yet received a reply to your messages, and help you analyze your workflows to better focus on what really matters.