Inbox zero – miracles do happen

About five years ago I told a good friend that is in the design industry (like me) that I had cleaned out my email inbox to zero.  His reply was something to the effect of “Well, that’s probably not a good thing. If it is close to zero, that means business is not good.”  It dawned on me today as I was working through getting my inbox down to zero, something that hasn’t happened in probably two years, that I took his message to heart.  He meant well, and I do understand what he was saying.  He was just wrong.  A full inbox doesn’t equal clients necessarily.  For me, it has been a constant reminder that there is always something else that I haven’t done yet (like any of us need reminders that there is ALWAYS, ALWAYS something else to be done if you own a business).  My inbox had become an unofficial to do list even though I already had a to do list.  And the older emails in my inbox became older and older and didn’t get done.

Well today….I did it.  How do you like them apples?

Screenshot 2016-08-10 19.09.10

Don’t get me wrong.  I didn’t just go through and delete out my inbox although I’ve been tempted to many times.  No instead, as I mentioned in my previous email, I’ve been on a quest toward improved productivity and overall working smarter.  My inbox was a huge nemesis for me.  I ended up watching a video by Scott Beebe on how to get a hold of your inbox, took notes and began my journey toward inbox zero (not a paid endorsement, just a very helpful tool…thanks Scott).  Took about 1.5 hours to clear out the 200 emails in my inbox…I was a “distributing” machine.  I say distributing because that is one of the mindset shifts that needs to happen: moving from a captive where you are “owned” by your inbox to where you are a distributor, owning your email and moving it to where it needs to go.  200 was my average for my inbox on most days even after clearing out a bunch of items.  How about you?  What is your current inbox number at?  Do you struggle like I do with your inbox or is it no big deal for you?  Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe For Crazy

recipe_for_crazy_trucker_hat-r7f682c549df547cbae0eb351a98b87fb_v9wfy_8byvr_512One of my focuses over the last several months has been focusing on learning about and leveraging systems that will increase my focus, productivity and satisfaction while infusing a more healthy work/life balance into my life.  I want to work smarter, grow my businesses while increasing the amount of fulfillment I get from my work.  So, I’ve added some new categories to my blog (productivity and systems) and plan to loosely give updates on thoughts, tools and processes that I come across during this journey. I plan to make a constant discipline of evaluating what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and asking, “Is there a better way?”

Right now I’m looking at how I handle email, how often I check it and developing better ways to work with it.  I’ve had some days where I’ve worked in response to the activity of my inbox and that alone.  That is a recipe for crazy.  I’m done with that. So, time to do that better.  If you have an email best practices, would love to hear them. I’m reading and implementing some as I read more and will let you know those that I finally land on. I would also love to be able to hand off much of my inbox to an assistant at some point, but I have yet to find a setup that I’m comfortable with that I feel would work for everyone.  That will come later on.

I’m also looking at my daily prioritized task list (Download Here).  I’ve used this for about 3 years now.  The problem? It says daily, but it has about 20 lines on each day, and I can easily fill up those lines with tasks.  The problem is that unless I plan on working around the clock, there is no way that I will be able to accomplish those in a day. That also is a recipe for crazy. This morning, I was needing to print out some more copies of this Daily Prioritized Task, and I paused.  I thought, “I wonder if there is a better way to do this and removed some of the stress I consistently feel from this?” Really, this list would more appropriately be for me a weekly task list.  I’ve often thought that if I could at accomplish these within a period of 2 to 3 days, THAT would be a successful week. So…I’m experimenting. I’ve been taking the items from my list and putting them on my calendar in time slots for about a week.  That helps carve out time, and it helps me focus as I know there is a time slot for the rest of the items on the list. That has helped.  Now my plan is to shift from a daily to a weekly task list in the way it is labeled and the way I view it.  If I get done with my weekly task list in a few days?  GREAT!  I’ll celebrate and then develop another for the week.  It’s an experiment so we will see.

Other items I’ve addressed and implementing systems for included using a scheduling software that has a link to a calendar for set times/days during the week when I’m available for phone calls and/or meetings. People could use the link to schedule a time that might be convenient, and my assistant could use this and schedule appointments easier for me. Also, I’m shifting toward limiting my Skype usage, staying off of social media during work hours except if it is for a client, and I have unsubscribed from a bunch of email subscriptions using and have bundled the ones I wanted to keep into a daily digest which is awesome times 50.  I’m also looking at a ticketing system for clients that we perform routine website updates and support items for.  More to come.  If you have hacks, best practices or tools to share, please feel free to leave a comment below.

UPDATE: I’ve decided to experiment on checking my email 3 times per day for 1 week: 8:30 am, 11:30 am and 4:00 PM for one week.  Since most people check their email more than 20 times per day (crazy right), I’ll see how this works.