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How I Keep Inbox Zero

January 15, 2016
AUTHOR: Emilie
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If you follow me on twitter, you probably see that I tweet about #InboxZero a lot. Like a lot of people, I get a lot of anxiety from having emails that I have to handle. Today, I’m going to share with you the strategy I’ve implemented that helps keep my emails handled. Of course, what works for me may not work for you, so my hope is that you can take some of the tips here to help you achieve your lofty email goals! There are particularly two tools that have revolutionized how I maintain my emails.

This is an example of what my email inbox looks like right now. For obvious privacy reasons, I’ve blurred out a lot of details. You’ll still be able to get the gist. You may notice that I’m not using Inbox. That’s for very particular reasons. Inbox doesn’t work for me. One of my coworkers, on the other hand, swears by it. Again, all about finding the system that works for you.

My email is set into three parts. The top section is Unread- there’s nothing there. The middle section is Important, which is what’s indicated by the yellow tag. Important emails stay at the top of my inbox but stars mean that emails need to be handled.

I actually don’t use Gmail as my regular email client, but there is one detail here that I wanted to really highlight for you. Do you see that yellow bar at the top of the screen? I’ll help you with that: “Your Inbox is currently paused. Messages will next arrive at 4:30 PM. To unpause now, visit your Inbox and click the blue UNPAUSE button.” Do you see the blue unpause button on the left right above the compose button? Read more about InboxPause here.

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My inbox is autopaused all day long. In fact it is only unpaused for 5 minutes 5 times per day. In other words, I only get emails into my inbox at five different chunks during the day. I have 5 15-minute time chunks scheduled on my calendar throughout the day, for example, from 4.30 to 4.45. During that time, I triage through emails. I read things that just need to be read. I “open in a browser” for emails that need real reading and maybe some clicking. Emails that need to be handled get flagged, which shows up in Gmail as a star.

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I actually use the native Mac App “Mail” to manage my emails. Here you can see the flags that I’ve been talking about. Red flags are important emails that need to be handled. Orange ones are important that don’t need to be handled, but I want to keep track of. Green flags are perpetually important emails that I need saved but don’t need to do anything with. Emails that are stuck behind my “Pause” wall are in the Archive.

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Every night I try to tackle what’s in my red flag category, but on Sunday I try to conquer all of them. I hate starting the week with a list of things hanging over me, so it’s of the utmost priority (right there with getting my editorial calendar sorted) that I get all my emails taken care of.

Inbox Pause + categorical flags on the Mail App = the secret to my email success.

What do you think? Do you have an email secret? People keep talking about Polymail. I can’t wait to try it!

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Emilie is a data engineer by day and lifestyle blogger by night. A Jersey girl at heart, she is currently living in her fifth home in three years, Savannah, GA with her college sweetheart. She’s learned the hard way that home is wherever the Army sends them. She enjoys eating food, cuddling with her dog, and binge watching HGTV.