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Understanding and Using Inbox Zero

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Published on Jul 25, 2012

Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero is a simple but effective technique to help you boost productivity and reduce stress in the workplace. It can change the way you organise and process incoming email, allowing you to spend more time on the things that matter.

The core principle behind Inbox Zero is that you keep your Inbox completely clear, by taking a key action as soon as an email arrives:

• Delete
• Delegate
• Respond
• Defer
• Do

This rigorous approach to email management was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann and the “zero” is not a reference to the number of emails in an inbox but “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in his inbox.” This allows time and attention to be saved for other tasks and eliminates the daunting “to-do list” feeling that an inbox can present.

Mann also suggests that the email client shouldn’t be left open all day, as this provides distractions from scheduled work. Instead, employees are encouraged to check their emails in regular intervals, such as on the hour, and take the necessary actions for each.

The process starts with deleting and archiving as much as possible, before forwarding on anything that should be handled by someone else. Next is to respond to any emails that can be answered quickly before moving messages which would take more than two minutes to answer into a separate folder. Lastly, a period of time is assigned each day to “do” any of the remaining work or carry out other necessary actions.

This simple process is proven to increase productivity in the workplace and helps employees to more effectively manage their email communications.

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