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A list of tips for users to achieve inbox zero and enjoy an organized Gmail account.

Are you the type of person who feels fulfilled when they see Inbox (0), yet you hardly manage to achieve that on a daily basis? Do you have tons of new emails when you open up Gmail in the morning and no matter what you do you never seem to catch up? Well, in this case, we are here tell you: “You are not alone”.

Email in the 90s

Back in the day, when email was initially introduced, it was being used by just a small number of people around the world. We were thrilled to see the little number next to the Inbox section stating that we have unread messages. This was such a rare occurrence, that it would provoke us to read the message thoroughly from top to bottom, followed by a detailed reply.

Nowadays, however, we neither have the time to read these long emails, nor the capacity to respond to every single one of them. Moreover, this would be relatively possible, if the number of emails did not exceed ten, yet based on a recent Email statistics report by the Radicati Group in 2014 we have received an average of 85 emails a day and sent approximately 36, where about 12% of the received mail is spam. This survey has targeted business emails, rather than personal ones.
business email sent chart 2014 2018 image
The report concludes that personal email accounts are about 3 times more than the business ones. That is not unexpected, as most of us have two or more personal accounts and at least one business email. On top of that, trends suggest that in the next few years email communication will grow in the business setting. Personal emails, on the other hand, will experience a decline, due to the growth of Mobile IM. The traditional instant messengers such as Skype are still holding up, yet apps such as Whatsapp, Viber and Snapchat are picking up the pace and converting the conversations between individuals to mobile devices.
Based on these statistics, the need for adequate business email management becomes a crucial factor in achieving Inbox Zero. Regardless of being a fan of the concept or not, users need to take action to achieve order in their Inbox, because with the rise of business communication, they might find themselves being buried in a huge pile of unread messages.

Here is our list of tips we suggest for an organized, Inbox Zero Gmail:

1. Decrease the number of Email Notifications

Nowadays, most companies are using at least one project management tool (Trello, AsanaBasecamp etc.) and one intra-firm communication application (Slack, HipChat etc). On top of that, we are registered on multiple social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN etc.) All of these support some form of a daily email newsfeed on top of the notification emails. However, why do you need to receive these notifications, if you are going to check the platform either way at some point of the day? Our suggestion is: If you cannot completely remove all notifications, at least limit them to a certain amount, which does not crowd your inbox.
Notifications Apps Image
Image Source: TrendingDig
 

2. Label your emails for quick readability

In Gmail Labeling is the process of marking different emails, with specific topics, by color coding them (you can choose different colors for each topic). Emails that arrive to your inbox can automatically be given a label, without your manual input.
You can do this by simply marking one or multiple emails, click on the more options tab and choose “Filter messages like this”, followed by “Create filter for this search”.
Labeling Gmail Image
 
In this way, all incoming messages from these sources will be labeled, as soon as they are received. I’ve been using this approach for years and it has really helped me to quickly orientate myself in all the new emails when I open my inbox. First, I don’t read the emails, I just browse through them checking their labels. In this way, I find the few priorities in the list and start from them instead of chronologically.

3. Limit the number of newsletter subscriptions

The average user receives approximately 416 commercial emails a month, which is about 20 a day. The tendency is that these numbers are more likely to increase than decrease, as the email marketing category is still a viable choice for many new and growing businesses, as well as some business giants. However, we barely read the majority of these messages, if they are not relevant right now.
That is exactly why I’ve limited the number of newsletter subscriptions I have to 10. Not 11, not 12. 10! This not only allows me to have less inbound email, but also to only receive truly valuable content, the one I’m currently interested in reading. I’m very picky about my list of 10 subscriptions and the moment I start slacking on reading one of them, it’s time to for us to part ways .
Unsubscribing can be done manually or use Unroll.me, one-click unsubscribe solution to de-clutter your inbox from any unwanted newsletters you’ve subscribed to years ago.
Unroll.me Service Image

 

4. Take action. Don’t leave emails hanging

If you are the type of person who really wants to have zero emails in your inbox, use this simple 2 step approach:
1. Open the email 
2. Reply, Delete or Forward
How is that going to help you? Well, you will be able to take immediate action on every email. If the email requires an answer, just reply right away and allocate the details and deadlines, if such apply, right after you open it. Then write the task down and get it done whenever you have planned it for.
 
Delete all emails that do not require any call to action and archive the ones you want to store for future reference. This will not only help you with clearing your Inbox from irrelevant content, but your mind as well.
Gmail Reply Image

5. Keep it short! The Five – Sentences Approach

Avoid long emails and replies – nobody has time to read. If it requires more than 2 paragraphs and it’s an emergency, just call!
Keep it short! If you cannot answer or solve an issue with less than 2 short paragraphs, just call the person. This may not always be applicable, but when it is just give it a shot.
We have found that discussing issues over the phone or Skype can save up to one full hour a day, usually spent in long and confusing email communication back-and-forth.
I’m personally fan of the so-called Five-Sentences approach. Here’s what it’s all about: “five.sentenc.es is a personal policy that all email responses regardless of recipient or subject will be five sentences or less. It’s that simple.”
Five Sentences Approach Image

6. Get your hands on these Gmail shortcuts

Did you know that Gmail has a list of very handy shortcuts for most actions? Once you get used to those, you will wonder how you ever lived without them. You can start off by getting used to the most common actions you use and add the rest if required.
This is like the first time you found that you can copy by pressing Ctrl+C and paste with Ctrl+V. Soon you will find yourself rushing through your emails by solely using your keyboard. Nifty, right?
For the full list of shortcuts visit Google’s support page. My favorite one is ‘e’ for archiving email. I use it all the time!
Gmail Shortcuts Image

7. Choose the right email client

We are definitely not the first, nor would be the last, to discuss the topic of organizing your email. However, some apps are aiming at facilitating that process. The pioneering Mailbox app is an example of where design meets function. The Mailbox app is a great tool for achieving Inbox Zero.
Mailbox App Inbox Zero Image
Mailbox allows you to get reminded of emails at a later time, by their smart snoozing feature. All you need to do is to swipe an email to the left and choose to be reminded of it ‘Later today’ or ’Tomorrow’. But I’ve also found that snoozing emails can be a slippery slope leading to procrastination. If I don’t review the email task compared to other priorities for the day, I keep on snoozing it for later without really taking any further action on it.
 
So a good rule I’ve learned from GTD (Getting-Things-Done), the famous productivity technique, is if something is going to take you 2 minutes or less, don’t snooze it or schedule it for later, just get it done now. If it’s bigger, than add it to your list of to-dos and plan for it.
Other possible alternatives to Mailbox are add-ons such as Boomerang or Right Inbox.

What to do next?

Do you have any other tips that you use and would like to share? How important is Inbox Zero for you? We would love to hear your position in the comments section below.
 If you’ve found this article interesting, feel free to share the word and get others to join the discussion.
Edit: After publishing this post, we’ve received a valuable comment from one of our users. It was a great feedback on achieving inbox zero from one of our users. Read Paul Bibblings’ guest post here.
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