How To Use Email To Be More Productive

communicationA couple of months ago a friend of mine told me about a way he manages his inbox that he called “Inbox Zero.”  This really grabbed my attention because my email inbox was full with thousands and thousands of emails.  Some read, some not read, and lots of junk.  When I visualized a completely empty inbox it was a little like daydreaming about winning the lottery.  Something that would be really nice, but it was just never going to happen.  However, here I sit writing this article and I’ve had an empty inbox for over a month now.  I check email only two times per day and end every day with an empty inbox.  I am going to show you exactly how I do it and how I made this happen.

Let me start by telling you about my old way of “doing email.”  First, I never deleted anything out of my inbox and I constantly checked my email.  If something came into my inbox and someone was requesting something from me I would immediately respond or start working on what they wanted me to do (<—psst that’s a key point).  For years I took pride in the fact that I was “always available” and would answer emails so quickly.  I let my inbox drive my day and decide what I was going to work on.  I basically let everyone else decide what I was going to work on and how I was going to spend my time.  Over the years, this method led to what I have come to call the “Shotgun Method” of working.  That is, multi-tasking on overdrive,  working on many things at once and never spending large, focused chunks of time on any one task.  Once I started working on managing my own time and really focusing on what needed to get done vs. what other people wanted me to get done this “Shotgun Method” of getting things done had to change.  This is why the “Inbox Zero” idea appealed so much to me.  It was the beginning of a more productive and organized life.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have everything figured out.  I’m still working really hard on time management and productivity, but having an empty inbox every day is making that much easier.

I have been going through a program called “Wake Up Productive” that was built by a guy named Eben Pagan.  I could get off on a really big tangent here, but to make a LONG story short between the Wake Up Productive program and listening to and reading a lot of Tim Ferriss podcasts and articles I made a couple of decisions:

  • I would empty my inbox every day
  • I would only check email twice per day (and NOT first thing in the morning)

By doing these two things it would set me up to be in control of my time and what I did with it.  I could now sit down in the morning and decide exactly what I was going to get done that day.  I wouldn’t be driven by what happened to land in my inbox at that moment.  Again, I could get off on a really big tangent here and if anyone is interested I could write another article just on this topic.  The important thing to know here is that shifting the way I do email is key to getting control of my day and my life to be perfectly honest.

Most of the emails that we get are not urgent.  They do not have to be done immediately.  Sometimes the people sending those emails think they should be done immediately, but that’s their problem not ours.  This is an important mindset for you to have going into this new way of doing email.  Let’s be honest with ourselves though.  There are times that people are going to need you to do something immediately.  Urgent tasks do come up.  For me, anyone with such a task for me has my phone number and will send me a text message.  I will check my email at Noon and 4 P.M.  Watch the video below to see how I go about doing this.  There are a couple of things you need to do before getting started though.

Use Gmail

If you aren’t using gmail, and it’s possible to switch to gmail I highly recommend it.  I’m sure you could figure out how to adapt these “Inbox Zero” methods with another email system, but gmail is the best in my opinion.  So get with it!  If you own a company with a team of people then Google Apps is a great option as well.

Turn On Keyboard Shortcuts in Gmail

Follow this link to see how this is done——>All about gmail keyboard shortcuts.  This is an awesome little feature that I never knew about until I started doing this.  I’m sure there is something comparable in Outlook or whatever email app you might be using.  You may have to just do a little research and figure a workaround if gmail isn’t an option for you.

Without further ado, here’s what my email checking process looks like:

Other Helpful Resources:


How To Use Email To Be More Productive