Daily Ritual – Part 5: How to Always Get to “Inbox Zero”

People often fail to get back to people.
(When I say people, sadly I’m pointing at myself too. Hester, I’m looking at you! Your project is cool I just haven’t had the brain space to respond yet! Candace, I’m just too busy right now to go on another hike…even though I want to! Tony, yes, we need to catch up again!)
When people are just too busy to focus on an email or phone call right then, they might read the email or hear the voicemail but not have time to respond, or not have clarity on how to respond.  Especially with the rampant apps and social media that we have in our lives! The developers jobs are to make their apps more addicted…and your job is to not get caught up and tired!
Further, more accessibility does not mean more quality of communication or benefit to everyone involved.
A wise man (by the name of Benjamin Harvey from Authentic Education ) once told me:
Your inbox is somebody else’s todo list.

This saying reminds me that people are wanting things to get done and they are asking me to do them for them. Their todo list has become mine. In a positive light there is a great opportunity here to build a connection with someone by providing an amazing connection or value through your response.

And so here is what I do…
I aim to maintain an “Inbox Zero” state at the end of each day…for ALL email accounts and social media apps. For those of you who don’t know what this means, it means you make sure your inbox(es) are empty at the end of each work day to help maintain order. And for those of you who do know what this means, and are freaking out because of the workload you think you might now have, it means that you have a simple four basket decision to make for each and every email and piece of communication each day. And that is not as hard as it sounds!
Each email/message will either get:
 – Archived – Nothing more needs to happen to this email or conversation for now. It may need to be recalled later though.
Deleted – Nothing more needs to happen to this email or task and it doesn’t need to be recalled ever.
 A Response then Archived – I would say that 80% of all email from individuals (that is non subscription or database emails) will get this. Even if it is a simple “Thank you!” or “received” makes all the difference in communication to let someone know you have what they sent.
A Response, Assigned a Time and then Archived – I use Todoist and Evernote for ALL my tasks (except for my journalling lists etc) to help me ensure that the inbox is clear and the task is set to be done in the right context, place and/or time frame.
If it ain’t in my todo list, it aint gonna happen!
For a non-urgent email, where a friend has asked me to “check something out” I’ll put it in my “Check Out” (Non-Urgent/Non-Important) Project List on Todoist to come back to with a timer or alarm to remind me (if a deadline is required). I’ll then send them a little note, thanking them, letting them know I’ve got it and the conditions under which I will get back to them about it, validating their expectations for our communication!
AND finally I will archive it the email!
Each and EVERY email or message will receive one of these “assignments“.
Four choices.
Don’t procrastinate any longer!
And it’s amazing what a simple response and acknowledgement can mean to someone to let them know that you’re working on their stuff! Sure, the world has become a little hyperactive and people seem to be less patient these days, but hey! Just send them a little one line note saying you’re on to it!
And a bonus tip??
Remove all alerts and notifications from your phone that are non-urgent. Except for phone calls (might be a job!), text messages (my friends know to find me there if they need me in a timely fashion) and WhatsApp (my staff use this to contact me for anything urgent).
Set a timer or trigger for you to come back to the others when you have time to focus on them properly.
On your break for personal communication perhaps?
Ask all business communication to come through to you at your work email and not your Facebook messenger.
In line with the first point, do it immediately or don’t look at it. Don’t tell yourself you’ll come back to it. You might. You also might not. Create the system.
But everything? you say. Do you really try and respond to everything?
I aspire to, yes.
This is an exercise in presence. And therefore many people will struggle with this.
Some people don’t like saying no to people.
Some people don’t like looking dumb and showing people that they don’t know what is going on or how to respond.
Some people just don’t have the presence or attention span.
Some people don’t respond because they don’t see how it relates to them.
I have been each of them myself.
Try for the next 30 days to respond to everything (excluding spam!) Even the hard ones!
How to Respond to Emails by Saying No?
Let’s say someone sends you a link to one of their Indiegogo campaigns on a project with a topic that has NO interest to you whatsoever. It’s kind of a personal email but you know that it’s probably a cut and paste job going to their whole database.
“Hey Brett!
Long time, no speak! How’ve you been?
I wanted to see if I could get a moment of your time to talk about my latest project…blah blah blah”
We’ve all had them, myself included! Two recently in fact! Hence the interest in writing this blog!
And here is what I did for one of them.
(Again it’s an exercise in presence. Be honest. Be sincere. Be real.)
They wanted money. I didn’t have any for them.
They wanted me to promote this to my network. It wasn’t a congruent fit.
They had a charity drive for a children’s health program. Children: yes, within my values. However health? Yeah, look…health is important, but it’s just too far outside my values for me to be of use to it with my network and skills.
My response was:
“Hi Sarah,
Thanks for sharing what you’re up to. I’m glad you’re busy and working passionately toward a worthy cause!
Unfortunately, I’m not sure this project would fall within my values enough where I can provide the right support to give it what it deserves.
Let me know if I can help you with anything else.
All the best with the campaign!”
Does that sound good?
I aim for all my responses I leave to:
  1. Include a compliment/inspiration (because I like to validate and inspire people who are on their mission). They make the world go round!
  2. Acknowledge the Invitation with Authenticity. If it’s not a good fit say why. If it’s a good fit say why you think so. If you’re not sure, invite them to share more with you or offer to reconnect at a better time to check in.
  3. Regardless, always leave the door open for further communication. This tells them you’re saying no to the idea and not the relationship. 😉
For those of you who still don’t like saying no to people, saying a clear no to things gives you clarity on what you stand for and, most importantly, what you would say yes to and why.
When you have taken care of all the tasks in your “somebody else’s todo list” or just given some of their tasks their marching orders and hit return to sender saying “no thank you” it is amazing at the clarity that can be received on who you are, what you will and won’t stand for and also where you are going to in life and business.
Tried it? Tweaked it? Let me know what worked and what didn’t for you! Contact me or write to me at brett@astuntmansguide.com