You know when you’re asked in job interviews about your “worst” trait and you come back with something like
“I just work too hard – I can never switch off”
Well whilst the above is completely true (as my wife often bemoans), the real answer for me is my organisational skills. I often find myself drowning in emails and replying to the ones at the top of my inbox (i.e. the most recent) doesn’t really help matters.
So the past few weeks I’ve made a conscious effort to avoid meetings and bring home my laptop most nights to try and really get a handle of the backlog and find ways to stop this from happening. I’ve tried a few different tools and here are the things that have really helped me turn things round and get to Inbox Zero.
- Sanebox – I saw someone link to this in a conversation on Facebook and it was the first thing I tried. Basically what it does is look at all your emails and put them in a few different folders such as SaneLater. SaneLater is where it puts all the stuff that you are not interested in reading – out of office replies, daily reports that you never read, newsletters, etc. You can train it by moving emails back into your inbox and it’s pretty good. I think my inbox went from having something like 2,200 unread emails to around 300 off the back of using this but it does cost money and I decided to try something else once the free trial was over with.
- Gmail Snooze Script – There are a few different versions of this but the best one is probably found the 43 folders one which you can view here. Essentially what this does is allows you to move an email to a folder it sets up which represents another date – so rather than your inbox clogging up with emails your waiting on a reply to or know you need to follow up another time, it automatically moves mails back into your inbox when you say. It’s great and once setup you should be able to work it with outlook rather than just the gmail web interface.
- x.ai – I’m sad to say that I don’t have a PA, so trying to organise my calendar and organise meetings with more than one other person attending can be a painstaking job. But fear not, this is what x.ai helps with. Essentially this gives you your own PA powered by the marvels of Artificial intelligence. So you just CC in Amy or Andrew to your emails when you want to organise a meeting and it will contact the other people, arrange a place and time to meet and send you an invite. This has saved me hours of faffing and whilst it’s not 100% perfect (don’t reply to Amy and she’ll stalk you till your reply) it’s very clever and lifelike.
- Moving from Outlook to Webmail – This is perhaps my most radical step I’ve taken.. I’ve not loaded outlook in over two weeks. The search in outlook is shit and I’ve tended to find that most times I’ve had both an outlook and gmail window open. To help with this I’ve installed a couple of chrome plugins for gmail (notifications) and gcalendar (again, mainly for notifications or to check my calendar) and it’s worked a charm.
- Trello. This one isn’t email but it’s close enough. I’ve actually been using Trello for a while. It’s great at organising a todo list but previously I used to categorize things into different lists for each topic. Instead I read a great pro-tip that instead, you should setup the lists into three categories. Today, Tomorrow and Later. You can then use the colors to categorize the actual items but this has really helped me focus on the tasks for the day and I keep it open permanently on my second screen.
So far so good.
The only issue is that after having a few days of meetings by inbox did clog up again and I’ve spend hours at home this evening working so the utopia of Inbox Zero will unlikely last very long, but with some of the methods above it should be a lot more manageable and hopefully will help make me more productive and organised..