The Zero Inbox Phenomenon
If you read Michael Hyatt’s blog or Twitter posts, you’ve probably noticed he frequently refers to his zero-inbox status. Awhile back he wrote a blog post on how to stay on top of email, and occasionally he Tweets about it. My good friend Mary DeMuth also regales Twitter friends with her own zero-inbox status, and to tell you the truth, the both of them drive me plum crazy.
So today I’d like to present both Mary and Mike with the above “Inbox=Zero” award, from Nerd Merit Badges.com. Congratulations Mary and Mike!
But I have a confession to make. The reason I was provoked by the inbox status reports was because, for a while there, I was letting my own email get away from me. I typically process about 125 messages a day, and when I don’t stay on top of it, the result is not pretty. A couple weeks ago I was up to 220 in my inbox. This does NOT include queries or spam.
I sent a message to Mike after one of his “Inbox at zero!” Tweets: “You and your zero-inbox are giving me a complex.” He Tweeted back, “It’s easy once you get the hang of it.”
Ri-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-ght. Thing is, I know that. I’ve spent years managing my inbox just fine. But sometimes the correspondence involved in my current job can get to be overwhelming, and the moment I stop being diligent every single day, I fall behind.
So I read Mike’s blog post for inspiration and decided to buckle down and get on top of it. And then I remembered: it is easy.
First you have to catch up. Then you have to implement a system to help you keep up. I do it roughly the same way Mike does. My email program automatically sorts messages according to rules I’ve created, such as: Queries go into the Query box. Industry news goes into my News box. Correspondence from my kids’ school goes into the School box. It’s easy to see at a glance what’s awaiting me.
Unlike Mike, I DO have a lot of folders, so when I finish dealing with an email, I file it. Mike recommends against this because it can get complicated. However, for my purposes as a literary agent, it’s simple: Every client has his or her own file. Sometimes things stay in my inbox because I need it in front of my face as a reminder. My goal isn’t to completely empty my inbox each day, but to get it to ten or below. I’m trying to make sure that everyone who needs a response gets one within 24 hours, or even better, the same business day. That way I can sleep peacefully at night.
So, thanks Mike and Mary for your inspiration. I may not earn the “Inbox=Zero” Nerd Merit Badge, but I’ll be sure to mention you in my acceptance speech when I’m awarded a badge especially created for me:
How do YOU manage your daily correspondence?
Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.