It was 1993 when I placed my foot on the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. Out of school and wet behind the ears. For one thing, the phenomenon we know as Email hadn’t taken over yet. Let alone Inbox Management.
Do you ever find yourself laughing at the younger version of you?
Especially in regards to how you dealt with a particular situation.
Is it the complete opposite to what would now be considered a plausible solution through more experienced eyes?
Particularly the value you put on certain activities, goals, milestones and friendships.
It’s good sometimes to laugh at yourself.
Reflecting on a younger version of me, sitting in my small corner of an open planned office. I felt important.
Back then, my younger self worked for the Head Quarters of a UK based company. They controlled many subsidiaries and branches dotted all over the British Isles. It was my job to deal with all credit inquiries for one of the smaller subsidiaries. In short, my work was easy, a lot of filing, a lot of time to day dream.
I still remember their on my desk were 3 In-Trays. Inbox, Outbox and Pending.
Generally speaking, each morning as I pushed open the double doors, punched my employer code into the ‘clocking in’ computer I would wonder how full my Inbox would be that morning.
Consequently, my self value was based on how much work I had. On one hand, a couple of papers in my inbox made me feel my job was unimportant.
On the other hand, a stack of inquiries was like a door to showing how great I was and promotion beckoned just round the corner.
All things considered, that was 26 years ago, and it makes me chuckle every time I remember it.
How different I am today.
Conversely today, an overflowing physical, digital and email inbox makes my blood pressure rise a couple of numbers, creates feelings of overwhelm and dread of missed deadlines and neglected clients.
On the contrary, an empty inbox makes me feel great. In addition it signals the possibility I am using my time effectively and keeping everything together. Thus, my Inbox management is working.
How about you?
Do you relate to the ways these two scenarios have an effect on your mind and body?
As a result, I wanted to write this article explaining three things.
- Why do we need an Inbox?
- What different types of Inbox are there?
- What is Inbox Management?
- How can all Inboxes be managed effectively to reach Inbox Zero?
An empty inbox makes me feel great. It signals I am using my time effectively.
What Is A Inbox?
Your Inbox as a rule is not and should never be is a place to dump things which sit and collect dust.
However, it is to be a place for you to DUMP things. Yes, that’s right.
Your Inbox, whether a physical one like a simple discarded shoe box or a metal tray should be the start journey for each individual piece of paper, receipt, object and creative idea that passes your hands.
In short, it’s a place to capture everything that demands of you time, energy or management to resolve.
How many types of Inbox?
Inbox 1: Physical Inbox
Do you have a place called Inbox where you can dump things?
For example, I use a small rectangular canvas box (about the size of a shoe box). It sits on the side of my desk. In to it goes, letters, paper notes with ideas, errands, appointments, and tasks.
Please Note: It’s good to have a pile of scrap paper notelets on your desk at all times. Therefore, with every mental notification you can write ONE THING on ONE PIECE of paper. In any event, don’t be tempted to create a to-do list.
Also, it’s good if your Inbox is large enough to hold objects as well.
For example, maybe the light bulb of your desk lamp has blown. You always have a spare in the cupboard but now you need to replace the spare.
Go on, place the bulb in the inbox, it’s captured and you’ll manage it when you deal with your Inbox in a day or 2.
Inbox 2: Digital Inbox
Meanwhile, in this day and age, most of us have a smartphone, tablet or some other digital device that allows us to hold information galore.
Used properly, this can become an excellent digital inbox that works as an extension to your physical inbox.
In this case, I have a special Notebook within Evernote. My default notebook labelled ‘Inbox’. In there goes everything from emails, to pictures of things, ideas, projects.
Do you have a digital Inbox?
Lastly, the final Inbox I want to touch on is the dreaded one, the one that so easily gets out of hand. However, it is the one in most cases which holds more of the important things.
Namely, your email Inbox.
Inbox 3: Email Inbox
This is where all your emails come to you. Some email providers now carefully separate your emails into different categories. At times, this can be helpful.
Here, you don’t need me to explain what comes into these inboxes, but maybe you could do with a little help of how to manage it successfully.
What Is Inbox Management?
In short, Inbox Zero was a term first started by an American Writer and Podcaster, Merlin Mann. For the most part, Inbox Zero includes getting to a clean and empty Inbox. Nevertheless, it’s also about how we get to zero and the effective way we deal with the information to our own betterment.
The question is then, how can be effectively manage all inboxes?
Step 1: Inbox Management
Regular Inbox Management.
Once a week, how does that sound?
For instance, how often do you check the water, oil and tyre pressure on the car?
If you checked it every day, well, you’d definitely keep everything topped up. Yet, how much time would you spend?
Is that an effective use of your time?
Likewise, if we are daily dealing with the stuff in our Inbox, clarifying what is and what needs to be done we’d never get anything else accomplished.
Therefore, you set aside a time each week to go through your inbox and decide what you need to do with it effectively.
However, your email inbox is slightly different.
With this in mind, one of the things I like to help people with is maintaining an Inbox Zero policy regards their email inboxes.
For this reason, I have just released a FREE 5 Day Inbox 2 Freedom email course dealing with and guiding people to freedom through Inbox Zero Management.
If you’d like to benefit please feel free to subscribe.
In that course, I encourage ones to check only once or twice a day for 15 minutes.
You see, many of the emails we receive can be dealt with in seconds. That’s right, BIN IT!.
Other emails are important to you and your family and need to be dealt with properly. Thus, they need to be dealt with in the same way you deal with all other information in your physical/digital inbox
Step 2: Inbox Management.
Systematic Inbox Management
This is true of both physical/digital Inboxes as well as your Email.
Don’t be haphazard about it.
For one thing, if you rushed the general car maintenance involving Water, Oil and Air think of the potential dangers and mistakes.
In this case, you could end up putting water where the oil should be or visa versa. Imagine the economical effect to having different air levels in each of your tyres due to rushing, haphazardly dealing with it.
So, work out a system that works for you in how you transform those receipts, ideas, appointments into next actions, reference material, project support information.
Also, have a set and designed way which allows you to effectively treat all emails successfully.
Would you like to learn a way of regularly and systematically dealing with all your stuff which brings you control rather than overwhelm?
Of course you would!
Step 3: Inbox Management.
Rule: Nothing Goes Back In The Inbox
This is straight and simple.
On the whole, the rule is: don’t decide you don’t know how to deal with a particular item and place it back in your Inbox.
When we do this we are diminishing the value our Inbox has to us. Eventually, we’ll give up using it and go back to dumping stuff which soon collect dust.
In brief, don’t fall in the trap like I did thinking the messiness or volume of your Inbox translates into self worth or value.
Be more savvy than that. Realise the beauty of a clean, empty managed Inbox. Go on, make a change today.
At least, you’ll have something to look back on and have a chuckle to yourself in the future.