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What is ‘Inbox Zero’ and is it a good strategy?

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Rather than letting emails accumulate over time without a system of organization, the ‘Inbox Zero’ principle says that people should empty their email inboxes several times a day, according to Entrepreneur Magazine.

Proponents of this strategy say that it allows the user to respond to all critical emails quickly, avoid the stress of a massive list of messages, and focus attention on more creative or fulfilling tasks for the majority of the day. This is accomplished by effectively blocking out chunks of time to check messages and disabling notifications at all other times.

Detractors of the system say that many of the benefits of the system can be had without the time commitment of getting to zero multiple times per day, according to the New York Times. Merely disabling email notifications and checking in only three times each day, for instance, had a stress-relieving effect that allowed them to cope with their tasks more efficiently and get more work done.

To get started with ‘Inbox Zero’, it is crucial to clear all messages and start with a clean slate. From there, set the inbox to sort incoming email with the oldest messages at the top so that nothing gets missed in cases where others are responding quickly to your own replies. While processing, do not skip any email and each item must be replied to, archived, or sorted into a specific folder for later. Importantly, any emails that require an action that takes less than two minutes should be done immediately to avoid procrastination. Once the box is empty, close the email software and don’t open it again until the next scheduled time.

Maintaining an empty inbox is more comfortable for some than others but learning how to use keyboard shortcuts will make the process quicker and setting up filters can automatically archive messages into specific folders or delete them altogether. Unsubscribing from frequently unread newsletters and mailing lists could remove a lot of incoming mail before it wastes time.

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