INBOX (Zero) – How to achieve email productivity?

Tim, a senior manager, is hesitant to plan a long holiday this summer. He is serving a critical role in the organization. Last year when he returned back from a week long holiday he jumped off the chair after downloading his 800 odd emails waiting for his response. Average emails Tim is receiving are 150 everyday. How can one optimize handling tons of emails received daily- many of us are not in the luxury to stare at desktop / mobile phone whole day now and then. If some of us has this luxury its shear waste of valuable time to only respond to email and do not employ ourselves to other forms of productive work like engaging a team in person to produce good work. The million dollar question is what can be done about this?

Golden rule is define a regular frequency like once a day or maximum twice a day when you will attend to your email box. Staring at mailbox all the time is big killer of your day’s plan.

Next important thing to do is bucket your emails first always to arrive at INBOX (Zero). This is basic housekeeping like we clean our desks daily before start of work. The bucketing itself does 90% of the job for you. At the end of it you have no email in the INBOX and you have achieved INBOX (Zero) state. I personally like to do bucketing into below 4 categories. The moment i read the subject or first few lines first thing is to identify the bucket and move the email to that bucket. You can create folders by the name of these in your mailbox.

Answer Now : Bucket #1

If you find you can answer an email in less than 30 second go ahead and do it. This saves you from planning and action taking time. Take action right now.

In the bucket #1 you can choose stuff which is urgent and important. Lets understand this. There is important and not important stuff. So there is urgent and non-urgent stuff. There are four combinations of urgent and important stuff – ‘Urgent and Important’, ‘Urgent and not-Important’, ‘Not-Urgent and Important’ and ‘Not-Urgent and not-Important’.

Delegate : Bucket #2

If you find stuff which can be done by your team and falls into the job description of one of your team member or a colleague – do not hesitate to delegate. You can do so for stuff which is ‘Urgent and not-Important’, where you find a person who is directly responsible can add value or a person who would not mind extending you a helping hand.

Next Action : Bucket #3

The stuff which is ‘Not-Urgent and Important’ it is the right bucket. Keep a folder where you park all your such stuff and come back to it when you plan to attend to it. Easy way to handle such stuff is put a reminder. If you need help in a group – schedule a meeting. The calendar will do the rest.

Read later : Bucket #4

The stuff which is going to find place here is ‘Not-Urgent and Not-Important’ – so who cares. Just Chill. You probably will not be visiting this folder at all – just move the email here and  you are all done towards INBOX (Zero).

‘Less is more’ – a phrase from 1855 poem ‘Andrea del Sarto’ by Robert Browning is so relevant while managing your mail box. You have more productive time, once you shrink your mailbox to ‘INBOX (Zero)’.

Happy productive time – Happy ‘INBOX (Zero)’.

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