Getting Your Inbox to Zero Messages Per Day

After blogging and running my small business over 3 years, I’ve found my email traffic has increased considerably from what it used to be. In fact, email has been one of the things that discourages me the most because it takes my time away from producing content and working on this website behind the scenes to improve readability and search engine optimization. Of course, I also have my day job inbox along with personal emails to manage too. So like you, I’m sure this takes a lot of time each week.

So, how do you reach inbox zero at the end of your day but still find time to focus on other priorities? US News recently provided 6 strategies that I’m already putting to work and it’s appears to be helping!

Email email email1. Clear email two times per day – This is a great tip and one that I find the hardest to stick to. They recommend reviewing and responding to emails in the morning and at the end of the day. The problem I find, at least for my day job, is that people try to carry on conversations in email. At best, I try to follow this approach 3 times per day. My goal is to check them in the morning and then focus on meetings and other work until around lunch. I’m trying to wrap up my day by responding to emails and moving items to my to-do’s.

2. Move items to your to do list – The gem here is to avoid using your inbox as a to do list. Your inbox is mail so you need to either reply to it, identify a to-do or archive it.

“Your inbox should not act as your task management system. It puts undue pressure on your productivity and means you’ll never see a clean inbox.”

3. Create auto responders and templates – Another thing I’m trying to do is use templates for requests such as guest posting on this blog. I have a templated response that directs the requestor to a form where I can find out more information and follow up if the request is of interest to me. You can use templates when you often respond with the same text.

4. Unsubscribe from lists – I think it’s best to be subscribed to a core set of lists of interest, otherwise, unsubscribe from everything else. I know that most of the information I’m looking for I can find by going to the website directly. Many of the advertisement emails just clog up my inbox with more things to read and look at.

5. User filters and tags – Another good recommendation is to filter or tag emails. You can typically do this by sender or content. Gmail makes this pretty easy. I have folder set up that automatically tags emails based on where they come from. I then move emails to folders so I can reply in batch later.

6. Batch responses – Batch responses are the best way to deal with emails, if you can make this work. Of course some emails require timely responses. For guest post requests, my goal is to reply in batch once per week. This means I go to the batch folder and reply with my email template. I can reply to about 30 emails in just 10-15 minutes by using this method.

I think these tips are helpful for anyone, but especially a small business owner who is also a full-time employee with their day job. I might add that it’s important to stay on top of emails. You have to remember that there may be people interested in partnering or working with you that can help grow your business. You want to be professional and timely in your response. At the same time, try to be productive in your email management, otherwise, it might drain you of all your time.

How do you manage all your emails? Are you able to achieve inbox zero?

How to Achieve Inbox Zero

About Jason Price

Jason Price is a family man saved by grace, passionate about faithful financial stewardship (1 Cor 4:2 NIV), soccer and the Pacific sun.

  • Chris Holdheide

    Clearing out my inbox has always been a challenge for me.  A lot of times I often find myself sick and tired when my inbox gets heaping full and I go a rampage deleting hundreds of emails.  

  • Jason Price

    Ha! Chris, this is a challenge for me too. I’m doing my best to move items to my to do list but that can be a lot of work depending on how many emails you receive per day. I’m still ending the day with items in my inbox, but not nearly as much as it used to be. Do you have any tips?