Why you should aim for Inbox Hero rather than Inbox Zero

Apps and Processes

Without a doubt, email remains the most popular method of business communication with over 269 billion emails being sent per day. It’s a great way to quickly and regularly connect with clients and colleagues.  However, with the average person receiving 121 business emails a day, it has also resulted in an increased need for admin time to work through all of these emails, as well as losing focus of the intended purpose. From one day to the next, it is easy to find yourself drowning in your own inbox, with no clue on where to start!

There are different methods out there, with slightly different tips and tricks for taming your inbox.  The most popular method at the moment is Inbox Zero.

The Inbox Zero concept was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann and focuses on a technique to quickly identify, categorise and process emails to achieve an empty inbox.

Whilst there are elements of this method that prove useful, it can result in an increased amount of time being spent looking at your messages and detracts focus away from other areas.

Be an Inbox Hero

It is possible to effectively process emails in a way that allows you to keep on top of incoming messages, without falling down a rabbit hole.  Here are The Assistant Quarters’ tips for becoming an Inbox Hero.


Plan regular intervals into your working day to go into your inbox and review your messages.  Turn off notifications to avoid hopping in every time you hear a beep!  We can become distracted by the need to check our incoming messages and takes our focus away from other projects.  If you’re concerned about missing an urgent message, why not set up an out of office advising the sender that you aren’t actively looking at your email and to give you a call if something is urgent?

Research from Loughborough University in England found it took the average employee an average of 1 minute 44 seconds to react to a new email notification and on average 64 seconds to recover from an email interrupt and to return to their work

Touch It Once Principle

The Touch It Once Principle is an effective time management tool to avoid wasting precious time procrastinating on the same task for a prolonged period of time.  When reviewing messages in your inbox, you should aim to only touch each email once and either:

  • Delete – do you need to look or review this message again in the future?
  • Delegate – can you ask someone else to action?
  • Defer – can you quickly respond or do you need to schedule time to complete the request or respond?
  • Do – can you send a quick response now?

By only touching each message once, you will avoid the unnecessary time spent visiting and revisiting the same message over and over again by taking action there and then.

Notifications and Subscriptions

How many emails do you receive on a daily basis where you have subscribed to something, or receive a notification that you simply delete each time?  Spend some time having a cull and unsubscribing or amending your notification settings.  This will save you a small amount of time each day deleting the same messages.


Sending and receiving tasks via email is common practice, but is not the intended purpose for your inbox.  Instead, use an app such as Asana or Trello.  You can set up individuals or teams and assign them tasks to complete, keeping all the detail in one place and avoids clogging up your inboxes.

Chat Apps

The same thing happens when we start having a discussion or chat over email.  We end up sending one line responses, increasing the amount of emails being received and needing to be actioned.  Take the communication out of your inbox and use an app such as Slack or Hipchat to ‘chat’ online and discuss specific topics in real time.

Email Management Tools

There are a number of great tools out there to help make managing your inbox a little easier.

Boomerang for Gmail and Outlook is a useful tool that allows you to snooze messages to reappear in your inbox at a later date, but you can also schedule messages to be sent at another time, track when emails are received and opened, and also set up reminders to follow up.

Another great tool is Spark.  This app identifies what emails are important to you and highlights these at the top of your inbox.  It can also categorise based on personal messages, newsletters and notifications, making it easier to quickly filter and sort through your messages.

Ready to become an inbox hero?

Book in for a discovery call to chat about your options.

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