Email is a necessary evil. Because there is no priority rating for emails, you have to go over them all. Without a process to master your inbox, you have 2 options: 1) live in your inbox all day, or don't look and hope nothing important will come in. That doesn't work.
In this article, I'll give you a bulletproof process to master your inbox and never miss an important email ever again. Oh, and you don't have to work from your inbox either.
Why you have to process your email daily
It's important to have clean inbox because otherwise you're gonna miss important emails. The inbox doesn't tell you the priority of emails, so you have to go through ALL of those emails. What I used to do, is answer each email individually and then find out there is a major problem waiting for me in the last email. So, here am I working late again. The alternative is not as pretty either: working from your inbox feels like you're busy. But did you work on your important projects for this month? Not really.
So we need to go through our emails everyday, but not all-the-time. Let me explain why that is. The problem with inboxes is, that they're sorted by time and not on priority. The last email is at the top and, you don't know which one is most important or urgent. This is what that looks like:
Looking at this imaginary inbox, it's hard to tell which email is most important. Let's go over each one of them and add a priority score.
Adding the priority column makes it easier to see which emails are important (and which are not). The crux is that you have to go over all of your emails to give it a priority rating.
Let's sort all the emails on priority, so we can work on the most important things first.
Once we've sorted the emails on priority, we can see our Google advertising account is been paused and no ads are running. This is costing us money!
Let's quickly fix it. I'm glad we sorted the emails first, before we started responding to emails.
How to process email quickly to get to inbox zero
Check out this video with the process I use to quickly process my emails. I'll explain what I'm doing in the rest of the article.
How to use shortcuts in Gmail
Starting in my inbox with some unread emails as an example.
- Select the top email and start there. Gmail will automatically go to the next email based on the settings I'll show you in a little bit
- Use shortcuts E for Archive, R for Reply, L for label to go through the emails quickly
- Once you've added a label, archive it so it's no longer in the inbox
- If a task takes more than 2 minutes, add it to the Action label. When you're done processing all emails, feel free to work on the Action emails
Creating the labels to process email quickly
So let's set up some labels in your Gmail. Go to settings in Gmail , select the tab 'labels; and create the labels you need.
The ones I use and recommend:
- Action -> all tasks are added in here
- FYI / Interesting -> look at these once a month. If there is a cool idea in a newsletter that I want to use in the future, this is where it goes
- Waiting for -> optional. If I add myself in CC the email is labeled with 'waiting for' so I have a list of emails I need to check if I've gotten follow-up
- Feel free to add folder for projects if you prefer to work that way
I number my labels, so it's quicker to use the keyboard shortcuts (e.g. 1 = Action). Okay, so how do we set this up? Once we have the label set up, if you're in an email, you press the letter L or you click on the icon where the one is, you search for the label if you have the lot or you can just select from the list at number 3.
Set up Gmail to work quicker
The next step is to go to Advanced Settings in Gmail and then enable Auto-Advance. Make sure that you save the changes with the button on the bottom of the page:
Next, refresh the page and go to the tab 'General Settings' and find the 'Auto-advance' option. Select the second one, "Go to the previous order conversation".:
Within the General Settings scroll up and find 'Send and archive' to show a blue button when drafting an email.
Finally, in the general settings turn on the 'keyboard shortcuts'.
Use "SHIFT + ?" to see a pop-up of all the shortcuts.
Master your focus
Minimise distractions from your devices, get control by keeping your focus and feel on top of work, instead of being distracted and feeling overwhelmed.