Getting your emails to zero is awesome.
But keeping them there–without a lot of time or stress–is exhilarating.
How would it feel to have your emails to zero by TONIGHT, and to be able to keep them at zero forever?
Today I’m going to show you a super simple way to keep your emails at zero AND help you get started building your very own “Command Central.”
The really fun part? You’re going to be trained alongside one of my most successful students, who has also been one of my greatest mentors, Amy Porterfield. (Eric and I were guests on her podcast, and now the recording is available for YOU!)
Amy, an incredibly talented CEO at AmyPorterfield.com, has helped me and Eric to build the foundation of LearnDoBecome.com, and I recently went to her home for a (totally rare) five-hour session to help get her emails under control and set up her STEP system.
She has maintained Inbox Zero for months, and today we’re going to show you how:
Click here to listen to the mini-training, “Operation Clear Out Your Inbox” on Amy’s podcast!
Here are some key ideas, so you can get a quick overview…
Before you jump into “Emails to Zero” mode, you’ll want to establish at least a few parts of your “Command Central”:
(1) A monthly calendar for appointments (Google calendar)
Most people have some sort of a calendar in place, but what typically happens is that we clutter our calendars with tasks and projects that don’t HAVE to be done that day, and then we spend all our time moving things around. We want a SUPER STREAMLINED calendar with only the appointments we are committed to keep. (There’s got to be buffer, because no day ever goes as planned.) Lots of white space. Lots of flexibility (or as much as possible). 🙂
(2) A “to do today” calendar for date-specific tasks (Asana, paper planner, etc.)
If you have a paper planner, this would be your daily task list. It could also be an app like Asana that has a list of all the items that HAVE to be done, or at least looked at/reviewed today.
But watch out for these two common mistakes:
Mistake #1: We put projects on our to-do list. These should be specific tasks or NEXT ACTIONS, not sub-projects. A Next Action is the next specific, visible activity that will move a project toward completion. It is boiled ALL the way down, so you couldn’t possibly procrastinate because it looks so, so easy to do.
For example, someone might write, “Testimonials,” which means, “I need testimonials on my site.” But that’s a project…it probably won’t be done, start to finish, in one day. But you could say, “Email top 10 community members asking for testimonials about my course.” or “Edit the testimonials my assistant compiled in a Google Doc.” or “Listen to Amy’s podcast about testimonials.”
Mistake #2: We write down EVERYTHING we wish we could do today–instead of the specific things that MUST be done today. This should really be a short list. Something you can check off, even if everything goes wrong. That way, you have a streamlined calendar, a super short list of what needs to happen today, and then everything else you get done is icing on the cake! Bonus points! You end the day feeling like a CHAMP!
(3) A Current Projects List (Top 3-5 projects you’re focused on in your business)
Most of us are working on 20-100 projects all at the same time. That’s why we feel like we’re spinning in circles. A Current Projects List for your business includes 3-5 projects/multi-step tasks that you are working on THIS MONTH. And if you have more than that, you add them to a “Next in Line” list. (Amy and I did this with Asana–and we made sections for Current Projects and Next in Line projects.)
For example, you could say, “This month I’m creating a content-marketing routine that can run on auto-pilot, I’m optimizing my existing Facebook ads, and I’m updating the slides for my webinar with new testimonials.”
Now, you can get those things done early in the month and move on to additional projects, but when you’re trying to do 20 things at once (like also upgrading your shopping cart, setting up an affiliate program, rewriting a sales page, and creating an upsell product), you’re just going to feel stressed out.
This list is your FOCUS, and if you decide to add another Current Project, that’s fine, but you need to knock one of the current ones off onto the “Next in Line” list.
(4) A context-based Next Actions list: home, phone, errands, to discuss, and computer. This can be paper or digital.
Another common mistake is that we jumble up a variety of contexts on our lists…. Some items are errands, some are agenda items, some are phone calls, etc.
David Allen, author of Getting Things Done(R) recommends five contexts: home, phone, errands, to discuss, and computer. I keep everything but “computer” in my paper planner, so when I’m with my kids, I have a little list of errands to run, things to do around the house, etc. I keep ALL computer stuff in Asana, and that’s the list I work from throughout the day.
Keep these “Email Rules” in mind:
(1) Only check your email at designated times throughout the day.
Think of it as a commute to and from work…and then you check in every couple of hours or so, if you’d like. Utilize Inbox Pause or simply use self-restraint…because emails can run your life, if you let them.
(2) When you do check your email, you’re going to process everything in the inbox and leave NOTHING there.
Your inbox is not your task list. (You’ve got to get the blue sky and sunshine–from Inbox by Gmail–to appear each time. It will give you a lift!)
(3) Use the two-minute rule.
Quickly respond, create Gmail filters to auto-sort, unsubscribe, add something to a calendar or task list, etc.
(4) Create at least these three folders:
- @Immediate Action – These emails are the tasks that will take longer than two minutes, but that don’t make sense to extract and put onto your calendar or task list. Work from this folder during the day–and get it to ZERO once a week during your Weekly Review.
- @Tickler – Any time an email represents a task or a calendar-specific event, you can note the task/event in the appropriate place with a (T) next to it, and keep the email filed there in the @Tickler folder. (Logins for webinars, agenda items, etc.)
- @To Sort – Once you have processed the emails for the last 30 days (or at least scanned them to make sure there’s nothing urgent), add EVERYTHING to “@ToSort.”
- Other folders can be created as you notice categories/themes/frequent senders in your emails. I have more about this in a previous post about getting emails to zero.
Want a few case studies so you can see “emails to zero” in action? (These are tailored for online businesses, but the process works for everyone!)
(1) A potential affiliate emails you and expresses interest in a program you’ve developed.
You need to get that person set up with access to the program, and also write a thoughtful email in response, but it will take more than two minutes.
Add that email to @Immediate Action because it will take maybe 5-6 minutes, but it’s not worth adding to Asana or a calendar because that would take almost as long as just writing the email.
You’ll get to it by the end of the day, or at least by the end of the week.
(2) A client sends you an email with a bunch of information he wants to discuss when you meet–and he’d like you to call him on Friday at 3. You don’t want to lose this information.
Add the event to your calendar, referencing the email.
Move the email to @Tickler.
(3) You see an email asking for guest posts to a site you ADORE. You don’t want to miss that opportunity.
It doesn’t need to happen for another week or so, so you create a task in Asana to remind you to consider the opportunity next Wednesday. You can get to it BEFORE, if you’d like, but at least by next Wednesday.
File the email into @Tickler.
(4) You get an email from a friend saying she JUST switched to SamCart, and she is in heaven. You realize you need to upgrade ASAP.
This goes onto your Current Projects list (and something else is moved into a “Next in Line” list so you don’t end up with too many!).
Delete/archive the email.
(5) You get an email from a friend helping with your Facebook ads. He says, “Call me whenever you get a second this week.”
Add that to your phone call list, and then delete or archive the email.
Emails might not seem like a huge issue when it comes to managing your stress and energy, but when you actually get them to zero, and when you know how to keep the overwhelm at bay, you will feel amazing.
Would you like to attend a free live class and learn more about building your own Command Central?
COME! We’d love to have you join us. We’ll show you how to streamline your projects and lists so inbox zero will be a cinch! Register here.
Image Credit to Gmail Inbox (That’s my screen shot of Inbox Zero!)
Adrienne Kouremetis says
I listen to Amy Porterfield regularly, so I listened to this podcast episode the day it was released. It was so great that I listened to it a second time – then read the entire transcript – THEN started implementing the system! I have three businesses, one business partner, two kids, one house, one husband, and countless passions, which means I have A LOT of email addresses (and calendars to sync)!!! I have gotten ALL of my inboxes down to 0 over the past week, and for at least one of my email accounts, there had been over 10,000 emails sitting in my inbox. This system has already drastically helped me organize my projects and tasks in a clearer, more efficient and effective manner. The biggest benefit, however, that I have observed is that with the increased white space in my inbox, on my calendar, and on my to-do today list, there is more room for the engagement of my ideas. I am actually able to take in more information, and follow through on using it! For example, when an email that lands in my inbox inspires an idea that leads to me writing a new blog post, that to me seems like the ultimate flow of energy! Plus, better systems that facilitate more follow-through and faster follow-up equals more business! Thank you so much for sharing your gifts of knowledge.
April Perry says
Adrienne, this made my day!!! Love seeing this, and I am so, so proud of you. I’m doing a podcast in the next week or two about how to organize Asana the way I showed Amy. Keep an eye out for that. 🙂 And please let me know if there are any other topics you specifically would like addressed here at LearnDoBecome!
Hey guys! I love the show and I’m super inspired to begin creating my own command central. In the show, I thought you mentioned a course that you took on Udemy about how to use Evernote? Would you mind sharing the author and/or title of the course? Thank you!
April Perry says
Hi Jana! So happy you found us! We LOVE Evernote! I got the “Evernote Essentials” book by Brett Kelly, which is awesome, and then we actually have a bonus inside our STEP program that teaches how to use Evernote with your business/personal life. Come to one of our webinars, if you’d like! We’d be happy to answer any questions you have! https://learndobecome.com/step
Thanks for being with us!!
Where is the podcast? I don’t see it.
Taryn Wood says
Kris, thanks for asking! The link to the podcast is right above the image that says, “Operation Clear Out Your Inbox.” Here’s a direct link for you: https://www.amyporterfield.com/2016/09/126-operation-clear-out-your-inbox/. Thanks for being with us!