📥 Inbox-zero policy → how to manage internal and external communications properly 🗝✨
At Stockly, several communication channels are used internally and externally - they are split into 2 categories:
👉 Synchronous channels: meetings, calls, Slack & WhatsApp → you receive a message, you read/hear, you reply in 5 seconds, end of story.
👉 Asynchronous channels: Notion notifications (internal) and e-mails (external) → such way of communicating are for non-instant requests that may not be manageable in just 5 seconds by your interlocutor.
We’ve chosen to make massive use of asynchronous channels and to impose strict rules on their use, for the good of the group.
Asynchronous channels have many advantages: reliability, track of past exchanges, flexibility, nests way easier in each user’s personal routine. But poor rules about how to use them can break all of these and damage a lot the organization (spam, huge waste of time, incapacity to focus on a complex topic because of pop-ups that disrupt workflows all the time...). A strict Inbox-zero policy solves this quite well.
The concept is simple: ensure that once a day, your inbox is empty. Let’s take the example of e-mails: once a day, you must have ZERO e-mails in your mailbox. ⛔️ I don’t mean by this “zero unread e-mails”. I really mean ZERO e-mails in your mailbox: everything must be treated and archived (whether replied and archived, or commented / assigned to someone and archived, or snoozed, …).
This philosophy will make your life easier, improve your professional relationships both with coworkers and the outside world:
🪨 Reliability → It solves makes the organization reliable at scale and prevents deadlock. A decision will always be taken within the day. Internally it creates huge trust and collective productivity.
🤝 Externally it shows how professional you are, as everyone receives a reply within 24h. Your clients, service providers and partners are assured of your reactivity and your exemplary behaviour, which will pleasantly surprise them and help build trustful relationships.
🚀 Efficiency → helps you avoid many unnecessary meetings and frees your mind of reviewing the same things over and over again without acting / making a decision. You will win back control over your schedule and reduce your mental workload.
👁 Focus → you must remove all pop-up notifications and process e-mails periodically throughout the day. Typically check your mailbox twice a day (30min in the morning, 30min in the afternoon) and handle it mechanically during these dedicated slots. I promise you will be surprised by the time & energy won.
Introduction & Scope
Inbox-Zero is a personal organisation method to optimize the time and energy spent on emails and messages, the average time to reply, the reliability.
Self organisation is the key to be considered reliable by coworkers and partners, and build trust relationships.
It is necessary to reply to emails & messages fast in order to avoid long times taking decisions, avoiding reading the same content several times without processing and always being preoccupied with many things in mind.
Email usage should make the life easier and not make you a slave.
The article hereunder advices on how to handle your emails more efficiently.
Emails pros & cons
- Allow fast asynchronous communication.
- Keeping track of past exchange.
- Get in touch with basically anyone.
- Can be used as an Automation tool.
- Can be spammy.
- Can be time consuming. You can easily spend the whole day replying to each incoming email, having an impression of working but in reality not producing real output.
- Continuous pop-up disturbing workflow.
Hard rules to reach inbox-zero
- Ensure that once a day, there is zero email in your mailbox. All handled emails are whether in the archive, trash or a specific folder.
- Reply to every human. If you snooze more than 2 days, acknowledge the sender that you received their mail by replying something like ”thank you Sir/Madam, let me check internally and get back to you”.
- Don't waste time on prospectus emails and random irrelevant emails: unsubscribe or use a rejection template.
- Rejection template: Hello, Thanks for your email and interest! I am sorry we are not interested, thanks for your understanding. Please do not reply to this email. Have a nice day!
- Reply fast but correctly: no spelling mistake in external emails, no dummy replies.
For once in a day your main i should have zero mail. That means that every email is handled maximum 24 hours after you receive it, which is amazingly pleasant for the sender.
To achieve that:
- Process email periodically through the day (i.e. once, twice or at max. thrice). Keep your mailbox shut down with no notifications, except at specific times, unless you need something very specific that needs to be done.
Example of a good rhythm: Login to your mailbox twice a day (30 min in the morning and 30 min in the afternoon, that's enough to filter) and empty your mailbox at those times only.
- While handling email, first delete or archive as many new messages as possible. Then deal with the mails which are not directly related to you i.e. they just need to be forwarded to the right person. Then the emails which would take less than 2 minutes to reply, and then the others.
- If you can't reply to a message right away there are several options:
1. Snooze it for the right date. If it's 3 days away or more, send an acknowledgement mail first.
2. Add an activity on your CRM if it's a subject that you usually track on it. If it's something to do, add a task on your to-do list / an event in your calendar to do it, depending on your usual way to organise your tasks.
3. Ask yourself if it's really useful to dig. Maybe you don’t know what to reply because it's nice but useless. In that case, filter out nicely, and keep your mind clear for important stuff.
- Reply Fast. The idea is to ensure one does not overthink too much before replying to an email and use the features discussed here to ensure the email is dealt in a fast yet correct way.
- Archive a mail once it's replied and have a clean inbox (Remember archived mail is not lost or deleted, you can always search them). In that way you can picture your mailbox as a to-do list.
- Set a reply-memo (or snooze) for important emails you send.
- Track openings to judge your next steps and how they will be perceived by the recipients.
- Send Later: It gives you the option to have email sent at a pre decided time. For example: To write up an mail late at night and still have the liberty to have it sent in morning so that it is one of the first mails your recipients sees.
- Snooze: Allows you to make a mail disappear from your mailbox as you think it is not the right time to deal with it and have it back in your mailbox at a specific time you decide (maybe 2 days later).
- Track Openings: It gives you the liberty to track when your mail was opened by the recipients and also how many times was it opened.
- Reply Memo: You set a delay after which an email you send will popup in your mailbox if you didn't get any reply. In that way you can put a reply memo and be reminded by the mailbox to have a follow up.
- Cancel Sending: It is an option which enables you to cancel the mail you just sent. You have time limit of ~15 seconds to re-think about the mail you just sent and cancel the sending because you realised some mistake you did or made a typo.
- Email Filters: To make your life easier mailbox offers you the feature to automatically filter out some mails. For example: You know that some mails are surely a spam. You can assign the task to mailbox to ensure that a mail with a particular subject, or a specific sender, is always sent directly to trash.
- Keyboard Shortcuts: You can set some shortcuts to save time when performing some very frequent actions you do while working on your mailbox.
- Templates: Mailbox allows you to save prewritten messages which you can use later to give a quick reply to a mail.
- Email address hack: firstname.lastname@example.org can also be used as email@example.com and one would still receive the mail in the mailbox as the characters after "+" have no significance. This can be useful to filter the emails in your mailbox.