Zack introduces the concept of "inbox zero" and why it's so important to manage your email properly if you want to maximize productivity and minimize distractions. Learn the basic steps necessary to achieve inbox zero including declaring email bankruptcy, how to manage newsletter subscriptions, as well as how to use task managers like Trello or OmniFocus to keep your inbox clean.
- [Narrator] In a previous lesson I walked you through the basics of setting up your first time block, and the foundation of working in focused blocks of time is eliminating distractions, and there is no single distraction that's killing your productivity more than email. On average, people spend over six hours per day inside their email inbox. I'm sorry, but this is just horrifying if you were a creative professional. This maybe makes sense if you work in customer service and your job is to serve the needs of others. But if you're spending all day long doing your best to keep up with incoming emails, you eventually become the I Love Lucy sketch where Lucy can't keep up with the chocolate on the conveyor belt.
If you really want to escape your inbox and effectively manage communication with your team members you're going to need a system, and that system in my opinion is Inbox Zero. In this lesson, I'm not going to dive into the nuts and bolts quite yet. I'm just going to introduce you to some of the essential concepts, and apps that I use to organize and file my emails to the correct place for later use. In later lessons, I'll go more specifically into how to use these different apps with your email to achieve Inbox Zero, as well as discuss concepts like email bankruptcy, and setting up email filters.
Now, the first step when you want to organize your inbox and get yourself eventually to Inbox Zero, is you need to filter out unwanted messages that you're probably never going to read or act upon. Right here what you're looking at is a demo version of a very, very full inbox that has a whole bunch of random emails, whether it has to do with film production, like we have here, whether it's from random people, whether it is email newsletters. There's a whole bunch of stuff in here, over 1472 unread messages.
I've seen some people that have shown me inboxes with over 20,000 unread messages. I don't know how people function that way, but I'm going to help you get yourself to Inbox Zero. So like I said step one is to filter out unwanted messages you're probably never going to read or act upon, and I'm going to show you two ways to do this. The first way to do it is with a system that's called unroll.me. Unroll.me, which is located at that URL right here, is essentially like a morning newspaper, but for your email subscriptions.
So if you get newsletters from different sites, like for example I get a lot of different subscriptions from health sites. I don't want to be receiving those in my email all day long and getting notifications. What I like to do is skim through all of them all at once, at the same time of day, and I choose the morning. So that is what unroll.me does is it rolls up your emails into one email. It sorts them by category, and it's only for the subscriptions that you truly want. To show you an example of what a rolled up email looks like, I've forwarded myself one to this inbox.
So you can see that this comes directly from unroll.me. I get it at about the same time every day. So it's around nine AM every morning, which is a setting that I set specifically, and you can see that I've received 19 emails all contained within one email. So what it does is it gives me the sender, it gives me the subject line, and I can read all of them at one time. If I click on it I will go to the detailed email in my web browser, or I can just see the ones that I don't want, skim through, quickly delete this message, and rather than having to open 19 emails individually, I've gotten through all of them in a matter of a few seconds.
The second service that does this at the next level is called SaneBox. Now unroll.me is free. SaneBox is going to cost a monthly subscription. I, as of recording this lesson, I believe it's around 30 to 35 dollars per month, but it is basically like having your own personal assistant reading and sorting your emails for you. So it is well worth it if you get a high volume of emails. The first example of what SaneBox does is called the SaneBlackHole. So if you want to unsubscribe to multiple messages at once, rather than going to each of the sites, and clicking the unsubscribe button one by one, you can take all of those messages, drag them into the black hole, and any future message that's sent from that sender never shows up in your inbox and you never see it, and you're never distracted by it.
Another great feature of SaneBox is the snooze feature, which allows you to delay emails that you may need to take action on until a further time, and you can also create reminders to remind you to respond to an email or a reminder to do specific tasks. There are a lot of other features of SaneBox that I'm not going to go into in this lesson, but like I said, it's basically your own personal assistant, reading and filtering your emails for you, before they ever hit your inbox. Now once you've gone through and filtered all of these unwanted messages that you most likely will never have to read or act upon, step two is making sure that you have a system for turning emails into tasks, and there's a couple of different ways to do this.
The first way to do this is with Trello. If you know anything about my background, you know that I love Trello, and in fact, I have an entire online learning course that shows you how to use Trello to build your entire end to end post production work flow. But for the sake of this tutorial, all I'm going to do is talk very briefly about how Trello can be used as a task manager for your emails, and the way that it works is all you have to do is forward an email from your inbox to a specific address in Trello, and you will see that email come up as a card, which can then become a trackable task in a task manager.
The second way that you can do email task management is by forwarding it from your inbox to a program called OmniFocus. Now, OmniFocus is something I'm going to go into in depth in later lessons when I start talking about the GTD system, or the Getting Things Done system. But once again, very simply, in this second step to getting to Inbox Zero, when you're trying to turn emails into tasks, the last thing you want to do is for your inbox to be a task manager. So what you can do is just forward your email from your inbox to OmniFocus and then process it accordingly.
Now the third step if you want to get to Inbox Zero is that you need a place to store reference emails that don't specifically have actions, and the best way to do that is with a program called Evernote. This is available at evernote.com, and Evernote is essentially a digital version of having stacks of notebooks. So the last thing you want to do, number one, is use your email as a task management system. Number two, you don't want to use it as a reference system. You don't want to think to yourself, well, I can't really delete this message 'cause I might need it again some day, so I'll search for it.
Don't leave it in your email. Put it in a reference system. Put it in, in a file cabinet, and Evernote is essentially your digital version of your filing cabinet. So going back to our inbox, the fourth step if you want to get to Inbox Zero, is that you need to use what's called the two minute rule for processing your emails. As I'm scanning through all of these, if I see something that I think to myself, you know what? If I read and reply to it, and that's going to take me less than two minutes, you should just be doing that now.
Don't think to yourself, I'm going to get to it later. I'm going to throw it into a task management system. I'm going to throw it into a complex reference system. If all you have to do is read, reply, and be done, just do it now. The two minute rule is if I can do it in less than two minutes, just do it now. And then the final step to getting to inbox zero is batch processing, and this is basically an extension of time blocking. So I talked in a previous lesson about the concept of time blocking. I'm going to go into it in more detail in later lessons. But think to yourself that you don't want to have your email in front of you all day long, and every single time that you hear that notification ding, you're going to respond and you're going to process, set aside specific blocks of time per day, where you can batch process your email, and this is going to allow you to more efficiently and more productively get yourself to Inbox Zero.
So I know that all of this Inbox Zero stuff sounds really good in theory, but you're probably thinking, well, I'm not starting at zero. I've got like 15,000 unread or unfiled messages in my inbox already, so what do I do then? Well, in that case, your first step is to declare email bankruptcy, and I'm going to go into that process in a future lesson.
- File management
- Time blocking
- Cleaning up your email inbox
- Organizing and prioritizing notifications
- Selecting apps to help you with task and time management
- Filtering email messages and paperwork
Skill Level Intermediate
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