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Introducing Inbox Zero

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Just checking, did you get my email? No? You need Inbox Zero.

Phone, laptop, tablet, PC, and even now the car is a vehicle for email delivery. There’s no getting away from it, our lives can often be dictated to and ruled by email. The problem is that because everyone from your boss to your Nan now converses and sends you media using email, it results in you receiving hundreds, if not thousands a month. That’s where inbox zero comes in.

If you’re like me, you spend a large portion of your working day with your head stuck in Outlook, or an equivalent email client. Thankfully the latest versions of Outlook are extremely powerful and very capable of handling large mailboxes with thousands of folders and items, with searching through all these folders taking seconds. If this doesn’t sound familiar, call us – we can help.

A daily sight on our Helpdesk is a user’s inbox with tens of thousands of emails in the inbox folder. It is also not uncommon for half of these to be unread. Seeing this makes me cringe as the OCD in me thinks of all of the possible information that may have been missed.

I have never understood this way of working. It seems absolutely unnecessary, not to mention inefficient and chaotic. With so much critical information now being handled by email how can anyone go about their working lives with thousands of unread emails? When I am presented with this, I always ask the user how they find having such a massively populated and congested inbox, and the answer is normally “Outlook searching is so good now, I don’t need to file it”. Sorry, no sale here.

A pet hate of mine is when I send an email out to someone, only for them to later ask a question about the exact same issue I emailed them about. Clearly they didn’t read the email. When questioned, they explain it’s because they have so many to read… or perhaps they just don’t read my emails!

Every email is information, whether it’s for an important project or the latest offers on car leases, these emails all have a place – and that place should not be the inbox. Once the information is digested and any actions are executed, it should then be filed. The end.

Over the years I have adapted a certain system of working, which has enabled me to efficiently manage the masses of emails I get daily and also keep my OCD under control. This system was aptly named (by a colleague who has also adapted this approach) as “Inbox Zero” – although we later discovered the term was originally coined by productivity expert Merlin Mann.

Inbox Zero is optimistic, and is more of a goal, but at any one time it is very rare that my inbox ticks over 40 items, normally running around the 15-25 level. Each of these emails remains in my inbox as it has an action associated with it I need to do, the email won’t be moved until that action is completed. It’s not unusual to receive over 100 emails a day, and the only way I have found to work efficiently and ensure nothing is missed is to aim for Inbox Zero. File everything, but ONLY once actioned and digested.

As for filing, it’s simple for me. Keep the top levels small and then drill down where required. Again I have seen people with only one level of folders, and hundreds of them, again my OCD starts to trigger…

Inbox Folder

To remove any risk of email not getting seen we have introduced inbox Zero to the entire Priority One team. This way we know that when we send an email, it will get read, as it’s one of a very small number that remain within the inbox. Mailbox management is key if you want to work efficiently. There will be people who tell you otherwise, but I am yet to meet anyone who hasn’t tried the system and adopted it full time. Yes, if your mailbox is a mess it can take time, but it is absolutely worth it.

A small change here offers a sizeable day to day efficiency gain, and you won’t get the daunting feeling of gloom when you look at your mailbox – as you know that everything is in hand!

Priority One – London IT Support

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Tom Merriott

With over 20 years experience working in the IT industry delivering unrivalled customer service, Tom is perfectly suited to advise on what's trending in IT and how best to deliver day-to-day efficiencies for our clients and readers.

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