Getting Organized: How to Get to Inbox Zero Every Day

Did you know we spend an average of 55 minutes a day looking for stuff we can’t find? On average, that’s about a year of our lifetime. What a waste.

Even though I get a lot of stuff done, I am seeking greater peace of mind. Meaning: getting my life organized. I’ve finally realized that the best way for me to do that is to ASK FOR HELP, to learn from a coach or a mentor.

I took the plunge and signed up for this FREE on-line course called “Mind Organization for Moms,” written by my organizational hero, April Perry. And no, you don’t have to be a mom to benefit from this course! The first lesson is getting your email to zero.

Who cares about email, you say? Well, who knew that having an “Inbox Zero” at the end of the day would take away so much stress – but it has. Boy howdy, it just makes me giddy.

This is how it happens: every email gets filed into an email folder.

This is based on using Gmail, which I highly recommend.

First, you’re going to make five folders by scrolling down to the very bottom on the left hand side of your Google email to where it says, “Create Label.” (you may need to click “more” and it will scroll further down.)

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After you click “Create new label,” this box pops up:Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 3.34.56 PM

Create five emails folders in the left hand column of your inbox (they will not “nest” under anything). Label them as follows:

@Action, @Immediate Action, @Someday, @Incubation, @Waiting.

@Action is for emails that require you to do something, but it’s not urgent.

@Immediate Action is what you work with all day. Everything in this folders means you need to take care of it within 1-3 days. You check it at the end of every day.

@Incubation is for things you are thinking about but don’t want to get rid of, like a coupon.

@Someday are emails that have ideas you really want to get to…someday. An example is an amazing bread recipe or a photography class.

@Waiting is for emails that require a response from another person. An example is emailing a query to a magazine and you’re waiting for a response. You’ve also emailed yourself so you have a copy of the email.

The reason you put the @ in front is because Google organizes the labels alphabetically and you want those to be the first options you see on the left hand side of your email.

It will look like this on the left hand side of your email now:

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Now, all the emails you get won’t fit exactly into those folders which is why you can create all the folders you want after these five! By the time you’re done with this you’ll feel like one snazzy organizational guru!

Now, every time you get an email, you PUT that email into the folder. Caveat: if you can take care of the email within two minutes, just take care of it quickly. Everything else? File!

How to move an email into a folder? Click on the email you want to read or have read, and then click on that little envelope at the top of your inbox. It looks like this (to the right of the trash can:

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 5.35.33 PMOh, goody! Another manuscript rejection! I’m going to move that OUT of my inbox and into my “rejected manuscripts” folder. Or maybe I’ll just delete it 🙂

Here’s some examples of other folders I’ve created:

I get a lot of family emails so one of my folders is “Family.”

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I have a “School” label and put all of my children’s “Kid’s Activities” under that Parent “School” Label.

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Here is what the side of my email looks like with some of my folders (I make a lot!) I try to make general “big” labels and then add subcategories to those labels.

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The Password label sure is handy – I’ve saved a TON of time quickly looking up a password instead of guessing wrong ten times.

I like to make other labels to “nest” under big labels. For instance, “Schools” has sub-labels based on the schools we attend. School emails “nest” under “Better Teaching,” and “Employment” for contracts.

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Other labels include Church, Journal (which nests under “Family”), Great Quotes, and Receipts (very helpful.) I’m always tweaking.

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My “Writing” label has the most sub-labels as I try to keep helpful articles, contracts, manuscripts, and writing opportunities very organized. This fall I was in a huge panic as I could NOT find an important contract buried somewhere in the 3000 emails piled up. I had to write to the editor (embarrassing and unprofessional) for info. It shall never happen again!

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What I love most about this system is that it FORCES me to take action. I ended up unsubscribing to a lot of websites and newsletters  (like Rugs, USA – how did I get on that subscriber list???) because I had to deal with it instead of just ignoring it.

Filing everything somewhere forces me to make a decision about what I want to do with an email – will I really read it or will it just hang out in my inbox forever?

It makes me feel more in control of my whole life – which may sound a little dramatic – but it’s really how I feel.

Clearing your whole inbox takes time. When I started I had over 3000 emails! It’s taken many hours, but I’ve actually enjoyed the process. You can file in batches or make another label called @Sort and file in half hour batches. I bet you’ll end up deleting almost ALL of them.

Now, this system scared me at first because what if I put things in @Immediate Action and then didn’t look in that folder? Guess what? You have to look at the folder and look at it often! I try to do this every morning and every night. If I’m procrastinating doing something with the email, then it doesn’t belong in that folder.

I’m not a perfectionist and I’m not OCD, but I want to get better at managing my life so that I’m not so stressed out and overwhelmed. I believe it will help me be a better mother, writer, and give me more energy for the really important stuff.

I tell you, when I see this a couple times a day:

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I feel really, really good. It’s like a shot of adrenaline.

Questions? Let me know! And good luck!

As I go on this organizational journey (sorry for using that word), I’d like to take you along, filing each post under the tab that says “Habits” on the top of this website. (wait, am I getting organized?)

Next time: Using a digital calendar (love it!) and how to keep track of all those birthdays! Isn’t this fun?

P.S. Here’s the link again in case you’re interested in checking a free e-course Mind Organization course. It’s based on David Allen’s #1 best-selling book GETTING THINGS DONE. The Mind Organization course is a simplified, hand-holding course with eight lessons. I need hand-holding. Managing email is just the first step. Imagine what I’ll feel like after eight lessons…

Giddyap!

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One thought on “Getting Organized: How to Get to Inbox Zero Every Day

  1. Julia Tomiak

    Amy, I love it. I use a lot of folders already… church, kids, writing (with lots of subheadings, although not as many as you… time to add), but I really like the idea of those five special folders for the top of the list. I’m like you – I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed. I’m gonna do this. I may even take the course.
    I’ve decided to check email only at specified times of day – just to get rid of that “urgent” nagging. I do morning, lunch, evening. I like knowing I’ll have a time to deal with it… and not let it fret me the rest of the day.
    Thank you!

    Reply

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