I try to accomplish inbox 0 each day. It doesn’t always happen but I almost never have more than 2 or 3 emails sitting in my inbox at the end of the day. I certainly don’ think that inbox 0 is the ‘dream’ that some people do. I see it on a regular basis.
The biggest key element to this is Mailbox.app. If you haven’t heard of it Mailbox is an iOS client (iPad and iPhone) that allows you to defer emails till later. It makes morning email triage super fast.
I’ve actually used a similar system before called Boomerang and you can read my post on Boomerang. Boomerang also allows you to defer emails to a later date and have them automatically show up in your inbox again. Boomerang and Mailbox duplicate each other’s functionality in this respect.
Boomerang is not really available from your iOS device. Yes they have (had might be better since I haven’t looked in a while) an iOS client but it was simply terrible. Not worth using for more than 2 minutes and those were a wasted 2 minutes.
Since I end up checking my email from iOS a lot throughout the day not being able to defer emails easily greatly reduced Boomerang’s usefulness.
One feature that Boomerang has that Mailbox lacks is the ability to ‘send later’. I like to keep proper office hours (9 - 5ish) but sometimes clearing through my email in the evening works. If I’m working through email in the evening I set it up through Boomerang to send in the morning.
Again sending later was only available from the Boomerang iOS client which was totally useless.
Since Boomerang is entirely a waste of time on iOS I rarely ended up using it.
Despite having Boomerang available to me I miss Mailbox on my desktop client. Currently I open my iPad or iPhone (depending on which is closest) and defer emails from there. Then I have to refresh my desktop client to see the changes.
This obviously creates a bit of friction in my routine. I have to use 2 things to really be ‘efficient’ with my email. Sure it’s debatable that given the context switch I am actually being efficient.
Using Boomerang to defer emails in one spot and Mailbox in another seems like a bad idea as I try to span 2 different systems. Cutting down the systems you rely on in always a good idea.
I find that the key to inbox 0 is not so much the system you use it’s limiting your email time. Timeboxing your email time forces you to actually be fast. If you only have 25 minutes (a Pomodoro cycle) then you simply have to make hard decisions fast. No futzing around thinking about replying to something. You either do it or don’t. You archive it or push it off to when you’re dealing with other items from that client.
What’s your key to inbox 0 or is it just something you dream about?