Oh, Inbox Zero. The unicorn of digital communication. It’s that mystical land that many of us never find, and it represents a semblance of togetherness, productivity, and organization that many of us never obtain (*raises hand*). All I want is to end my day with this:
But, THERE IS HOPE.
I reached a point of “DONE” with my inbox, where I just couldn’t stand feeling constantly behind in it. I was sick of responding to people with “sorry for the delay!”, and I hated feeling like my inbox ruled my life. In many ways…it does. I blog full time, so pretty much everything that determines whether or not I get paid is happening in there.
Missing one day of inbox maintenance could easily mean 100+ unread notifications added to the pile, so it adds up!
TBH, I’m not often at inbox zero. Like, ever. I’ll hit it for a solid 17 minutes before something inevitably pops up. But I like to think I’ve got it down to more of a formula as of late – by “as of late,” I mean this week. HA.
But y’all, you know how EXCITED I get about the little things, and this little thing is actually a big thing. Inbox zero can be hit, but here’s how I stay at it (or at least, close to it) on the reg now.
(PIN ME for later!)
- Have dedicated inbox time.
For me, that means an hour in the morning for more in-depth responses, and a half hour in the afternoon for quickies. I am honestly the WORST at closing my inbox. A therapist would probably tell me I’m addicted to it. Hello my name is Erica, and I’m addicted to my email. But, it’s true! My Gmail tab is always open, I have pop-up notifications on my desktop when something is received – heck, when something is read! – and I am le queen at mindlessly refreshing my phone justincase the world’s most pressing email comes through at any second. But this is so dang unproductive (+ unhealthy) in the long run! Being on the constant refresh hurts in a few ways.
1.) It keeps you connected 24/7. And really, ain’t nobody got time. You can afford to be off of email for a hot sec to brush yo’ teeth in peace, I swear. (Am I just talking to myself here? HA).
2.) It promotes context switching – a no-no for productivity! Context switching is what happens psychologically when you are bouncing from one task to the next. Each time you switch tasks, your brain has to take some energy + time to “switch context,” so to speak, to get in the right space to do the next thing. With each switch, you have less energy + ability to do it to the best of your ability, that you would if you would just do one task at a time to its point of completion before moving forward. In the effort to hit inbox zero, this might mean you’re in the middle of working on a project, when suddenly you see a little notification pop up. So, you hurry over to your Gmail to see what’s there – leaving Project #1 hanging. If the email was nothing important, maybe you’ll go back to your original project – but it’s a solid hot sec wasted in the process of stopping train of thought, hopping to email, reading, then hopping back. Alternatively, if it IS something important, it probably requires handling. So you can either read it, mark it unread and leave it be for a later time to respond in-depth, or you stop working on Project #1 and move on to this, Project #2. Now you’ve got multiple projects going at once, with focus scattered between the two, and neither is fully finished OR fully focused on in the moment. No bueno.
- Utilize the “important” function!
I used to just leave everything as-is in my inbox. Now, to make things as easy as possible for my dedicated email hours, I try to mark everything as “important” or “non important” when I see it pop up. That way, I’m focusing on anything “important” during that solid hour in the morning, and the “non important” things (which most likely require quicker responses, if any) in the afternoon.
Black cutout leggings (these are my all time FAVORITES! Might be fave pants ever? 100% worth it. I went down a size and wear an XS!) // “I Heart Caffeine” sweatshirt // Louis Vuitton Neverfull MM c/o // Nikes (similar – I have a pair of pink Juvenates and LOVE. Buying in grey soon, too – they’re just perfect!) // More from my favorite leggings/yoga/athleisure brand here // More Louis Vuitton here
- Categorize via folders – and DELETE!
Organization. works. wonders. I delete things whenever possible, but there are definitely waaaaaay too many conversations in my Gmail archives. Will I really go back through and read things from 2014? No. No I will not. If it’s past the point of usability for anything reasonable…delete it! Otherwise, if there’s actually a genuine need for it to be kept on hand, I categorize it in one of a few folders. I’ve got folders for everything from past collaborations with brands to really good advice that I want on hand for whenever. It really helps keep things organized so that you know exactly where to look when you need something specific. And, merge things that make sense together! Consolidate wherever possible.
- Don’t read before you’re ready to respond.
This brings it all right back to point numero uno – having specific inbox time is clutch. When you want to really crank through ish, it reaaaaaally helps to be in the mindset of making it happen and handling whatever is there on the spot. If you have no intention of responding in that moment, don’t even read it! Waaaaaay easier said than done (IDK if I’ve *ever* been successful at this), but it seriously helps. Whenever I just casually peek at things, chances are, they’ll sit there for a hot sec before I respond, since I’m “thinking about it.” This is a surefire way to never reach inbox zero – ha! Devote yo’self to sitting down at dedicated times to handle like a #boss, and let that be that.
- Don’t deal with BS.
When I first started blogging, I had this really goodhearted intention to respond to every single email that came through my inbox. LOL, Erica. LOL. At this point, that’s just not possible, unless I work 25 hours a day. But regardless of how many emails come through for you, it’s still not necessarily the most realistic or productive thought. If something comes through that will take me more time to respond to than the sender clearly put in, it’s not worth it. If you can’t address me by name, you’re not getting a response – point blank period. It takes T-minus half a second to actually pop on my website and see my name right there at the top – not hard! Addressing people by name matters. It makes a difference. So, anything generic and not actually directed to me specifically hits the trash without a response. I think you’ve just gotta develop a personal filter system! If you can tell right off the bat whether or not the conversation will be one that is mutually respectful and productive, that’ll save you looooooads of time + mental sanity in the end.
And VOILA. Inbox Zero. 😉
Sometimes it just takes that extra dedication to sit down and #werk, but that feeling when you see Google’s congratulatory “Woohoo!”? Worth it.
Have you gotten to Inbox Zero?
For some peeps, I know Inbox Zero is a *must* at the end of every day (bless your heart). For others, like myself, it’s this neverending journey to try and reach the summit that sometimes just keeps going up. HA. But, we try! And then, we do. 😉
If you’ve got any good email organization tips/hacks/etc, pleasepleaseplease share them with us all below – bestow yo’ wisdom!
P.S. In case you’re feelin’ a vacation, you need this post ASAP.
P.P.S. $500 to Target + a Gucci Marmont bag are up fo’ grabs. #GoGoGo
TGIF – have a fabulous weekend!