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How Do I Keep My Inbox Empty?

Inbox Zero seems to be a big thing among business writers and time management gurus. They think that everyone should have a clean inbox every day. I would often think about this as I would stare at the hundreds of e-mails that would be in it every day. But I then discovered a way to keep it empty, which I want to share with you today.

Block Time to Clear Your Inbox

First of all, set aside a specific time each day to check e-mail (I do 30 minutes right after lunch and at the end of the day), and blow through the list. Whatever you do, do not look at your inbox at any other time during your day. This will only make you distracted and lose focus.

Then, you go through everything that has come in since you last checked it and follow the 4 Ds: Do It, Defer It, Delegate It, Dump it.

Does Your Inbox E-Mail Need Action Taken?

The first determination is, is it actionable? Do you need to do anything with that document, e-mail, phone message, etc.? If not, then Dump It if you don’t need it. This means either moving it to a folder you keep for e-mails on a particular file, or just outright deleting it.

If it is actionable, bear in mind that that action does not necessarily have to be taken right away. Just because an e-mail came in doesn’t mean that you have to drop everything and respond to it, or take some other action related to it. You need to take a second look at the e-mail and ask yourself:

    • Can it be done in less than 2 minutes? Then Do It right now
    • If more than 2 minutes, then
      • If you must do it, Defer It to a future time on your calendar
      • If someone else can do it, Delegate It to a staff member

Done twice a day, this should take less than 30 minutes each time and keep that inbox empty.

But Wait, There’s More!

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Need personalized assistance? Just give me a call at 856-345-9699 for a free, no obligation consult to see if I can help.


Steven J. Richardson

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