Congratulations! You’ve reached the last day of the challenge! Let’s take a look at the challenges you faced from days 1 to 4:
- archive old messages
- process your email for a maximum 30 minutes
- unsubscribe from annoying newsletters
- set up filters to remove unimportant email
Challenge #5: Process your remaining emails
In the first 4 days of this challenge, we showed you the system that will allow you to process your email inbox quickly and efficiently.
We also helped you get control of your email list subscriptions and set up filters to reduce the number of emails you receive on a daily basis.
You are becoming a lean, mean, email processing machine.
Now all that’s left for you to do is to make the final push of clearing out your inbox so you have a blank slate to work with going forward.
This is the what we call “clearing to neutral.” By starting with a clean inbox, you’ll eliminate much of the resistance that could keep you from dealing with your email in a timely manner the way that you’re supposed to. Procrastination feeds on friction, so it’s important that you eliminate it whenever possible.
This won’t be as bad as you’d expect.
With your system in place, it won’t take anywhere close to as long as you think it will for you to process those email (even if you have thousands to start with) and you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that everything is where it’s supposed to be and nothing is hidden or fallen through the cracks. You’ll be much better off in the long run if you just bite the bullet and clear those messages the right way.
Efficient email writing tool for Gmail users
Are you a Gmail user? One tool I recommend to make clearing your messages more efficient is Boomerang. Boomerang is a Gmail tool that allows you to control when you send and receive email by:
- deferring emails for later
- scheduling an email to be sent in the future
- returning emails that haven’t been responded to, clicked or opened
The Boomerang software developers just released a new feature that looks at the emails you write and lets you know how likely the recipient is to respond to you. Having an email that is too long, too subjective, too difficult to read or too negative will not elicit the quick response you are looking for.
This makes sense. Which email are you more likely to respond to?
- A brief, positive email asking for a yes or no response?
- A long winded, unclear, slightly negative email that asks 5 questions?
I know which one I’d skip.
The best part, these shorter emails are faster and easier to write with practice. That’s what Boomerang’s new feature allows you to do by scoring all of your emails based on how likely someone is to respond to you.
If the person doesn’t respond, then you can use Boomerang’s main feature of having the email come back to your inbox after a set amount of days have passed. Follow up becomes a breeze and everyone will think of you as a productive Ninja that not only responds to all of their important messages but even helps other people remember to return the emails to they send out.
Handling the Backlog
Handling the backlog is important. It helps lay the foundation for keeping inbox zero going forward. To force some urgency when clearing your inbox, set a timer.
I like to use the emailga.me as a fun way to attempt to get out of the inbox faster by having the timer and a smiley face (that gets sad if I take to long) encouraging me to speed up my typing, shorten my responses, and make email processing decisions (quick reply, put on to do list, add to calendar, add to Evernote, trash it) faster.
While it won’t be as bad as you expect, clearing the backlog is easier said than done.
At Asian Efficiency, we have a term for tackling a not-so-fun project like zeroing an overstuffed inbox. We call it:
The Day of Pain and Suffering
Like a difficult workout, the day of pain and suffering is never fun in the moment. But it feels amazing when it’s over. The peace of mind that knowing everything is dealt with and everything is in its proper container will make your inbox feel like 1998 again.
This is the hardest part of the challenge, but it’s also the most important.
We’ve given you the tools to process your email more efficiently, now all that’s left is for you to do the work. Schedule some time on your calendar and process those remaining emails. When your inbox zero appointment comes, set a timer and get cranking. Here’s a simplified flowchart you can use (that’s part of our new, upcoming course on email):
Use the archive system and tools (SaneBox, Boomerang, EmailGa.me) we’ve shown you along the way to make the process easier.
This is an essential step because once you achieve inbox zero, you now have the systems in place to help you keep it for good.
More Email Tips
If you want more tips and hacks for dealing with email, make sure you subscribe for updates on the Escape Your Email. We have an email system that allows you to spend only 30 minutes a day on email. Sign up here and we’ll let you know when it’s available.
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