How much time do you spend on email every day? There may be Slack and email may be dying, but the inbox is still integral for many of us entrepreneurs. I know particularly smart founders who don't use email at all - but that takes time, discipline and planning. Besides, you have to clear out and answer all the current emails you have in your inbox!
And this past week, I got Inbox Zero.
It is absolutely incredible to start the business day with a virtually empty inbox. Every email is a new opportunity and idea.
It took several hours spread over the course of a few weeks, but it wasn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. Here's how you can do it.
1. Prioritize: What conversations are active and ongoing? That random business pitch from last year you'll been mulling for just as long? Chuck it. It's smart to sleep on sensitive emails, but, if you are like me, mulling can easily turn into a forgotten response. By ruthlessly going through your inbox, you can prioritize what needs and deserves your attention. I currently have only 40 active conversations.
I prioritized a fraction of my inbox, less than 1%.
2. Unsubscribe: What email shouldn't be coming to your inbox anymore? Between family shopping needs and interesting business newsletters, I had an obscene amount of subscriptions arriving every day - like more than a dozen waiting for me when I woke up in the morning. The beauty here is that you can always subscribe again if you change your mind. Chances are, though, you won't even miss your unsubscriptions.
Still unsubscribing! About 4% of my inbox.
3. Archive: What conversations should be kept on the backburner? There are great, long email threads I have with potential business partners that are not active, yet they will prove useful in the future when we talk again. For me, those digital paper trails sit in archive. When you use the Archive function, your email provider keeps the note, but takes it out of your official inbox. From my understanding, those archived conversations will be pulled back into the inbox when the other party replies to it.
I only archived a tiny amount of my inbox, about 2%.
4. Delete: What conversations are dead? I deleted thousands and thousands of emails. For some, I had no idea why I kept the email. For others, the time that the email was important had long passed. Seriously, I found emails from 2009, and a few where I didn't even know the context. Imagine suddenly creating a vast space in your email box. How many items in your inbox are completely useless?
I deleted a lot, about 90%.
5. Preserve: What do you need for historical purposes? Conversations from my previous businesses, great talks with friends and classic emails are worth preserving, but not worth taking up space in my inbox. I saved these emails locally on my computer and backed them up on a second hard drive and on my cloud.
I preserved a small amount, about 3%.
At Inbox Zero, I feel ready to take on any new opportunities that come my way. When are you going to make space for your next business move?