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How to Achieve Inbox Zero

How to achieve inbox zero

Are you suffering from inbox chaos?  Why would you want to achieve Inbox Zero? Can you imagine what it would be like to open your inbox each morning with a small and manageable number of emails to address? Inbox Zero is that by the end of the day it is empty. everything dealt with and that wonderful feeling of satisfaction it will bring. A feeling you have taken back control.

I have been trying to work out how to achieve inbox zero for some time. I don’t know about you, but I have been a slave to my inbox for years.  Each morning, I feel a blend of guilt, overwhelm and frustration when I open it.  Guilt because, being a productivity expert, I should know better; overwhelm because no matter how hard I work; it always seems much bigger than me; and frustration that I have not been able to tame it.

I am the kind of person who always likes to respond to people in a timely way.  And never like to have anything undone.  And loves learning new things.  And. And. And. It is quite a cocktail which exacerbates the problem.

So, I do respond to people quickly:  I pride myself on it.  But I often leave emails in my inbox as a reminder to do something else with it. That inbox clutter feeds into mind clutter. It also means my inbox builds up and builds up.  It had reached 5 ugly figures.  I am now at between zero and 15. 

Want to learn how I did it and how I keep it up?  Here is my method:

How to Achieve Inbox Zero in 10 Simple Steps

  1. You have to have a plan!  Otherwise it will simply take hold again and you slip into old habits and you will be right back where you started.  Planning is not a luxury but a strategy:  this is no time to wing it.

  2. Decide that you want to be in charge of your inbox rather than a slave to it.  This is a mindset shift which will serve you well.

  3. Unsubscribe to anything you don’t read.  Like I said, I love learning, so I would subscribe to a lot of things which I found interesting but never have time to read.  This has been going on for as many years as there has been email.  So I had to be realistic:  I can’t do it all.  Even if I want to.  I have to choose what I give my time and energy to.  So I listed those newsletters that I do read and I do benefit from and unsubscribed from all the rest.  I can always resubscribe if I find myself with time on my hands and wanting to feed the part of me which loves learning or want to know the latest offer is from someone other (I don’t).  If it’s someone I know I usually write to them and apologise but let them know I am just streamlining my inbox.  That way hopefully the relationship is not compromised.
  4. Stop using your inbox as a to do list.  This is a mistake that many make and was the main problem for me.  I like Smartsheet and I now use that more effectively as a result of my Zero Inbox strategy but you might prefer to use the task feature within your email client or perhaps some other time management tool. It’s always important to find what works for you.
  5. Create a structure for filing. This is a game-changer and gives you a sense of control and order.  It will be different for everybody but mine looks like this:
    • !Action (things I need to do.  The exclamation mark keeps it at the top of the list). I can easily see how many things need to be actioned.
    • !Awaiting Response
    • !Top of Mind (things I want to remember that are imminent or I need to check up on)
    • Read (I rarely open this but if I’m on a train and have nothing to read, there is always my email reading list!)
    • Clients (with individual client names underneath so I have a file for each).  I archive them at the end of our sessions together.
    • Enquiries (people who have made enquiries so I can manage the interaction)
    • Suppliers (products I buy)
    • Resources (services I use)
    • Partners/Associates (people/organisations I work alongside)
    • Orders (for keeping records of orders I place.  It includes a subsection of Delivery Notifications)
    • Events (for personal and business events, holidays, etc)
    • Useful information (I am currently also sending a copy to my Evernote (another great productivity tool) and may well stop saving them in my email)
    • Meeting links (just in case the technology fails me, this is my backup plan. I do like a backup plan)
  6. Create rules for incoming mail. I used this to file emails I needed to keep really quickly and in a sensible way instead of in my inbox.  For example, every email from a particular person will have a matching label with their name and it can automatically be saved to that by clicking the Archive button (I use Gmail:  it may have a different name in other email clients). This is quicker than trying to decide each time where something should go.
  7. Use labels as well as files. For example if I want something to go into a supplier folder, I can also put it into my Awaiting Response if that’s applicable to that specific interaction.  You can actually have multiple labels if you need to:  I might have something in my supplier list, delivery notifications and awaiting response if I have queried something about the delivery.  I might put a project label on it too if I am working on it with someone else. It’s a bit like a digital carbon copy. Make it work for you.
  8. Follow The Two Minute Rule:  whatever I can deal with in 2 minutes, I deal with there and then.  Job done.  And, I have to say, it feels really good!
  9. If all of this sounds too much, you may want to cheat your way into it by putting the whole of your inbox into a special file called “My Inbox Before I Learned to Tame It” or some such.  That way you start with a clean slate.  But you will still need a plan and a structure as given in 5 above.
  10. Be consistent:  it is the only way to keep your inbox tamed.  Little and often is key.

Focus on being productive instead of busy.

Tim Ferris



Technical Tips on How to Achieve Inbox Zero

Here is a YouTube video which will help you with the more techie elements of achieving Zero Inbox. 

If you are serious about reducing stress, improving productivity and no longer being a slave to your inbox, I do hope you follow these principles.  I am pretty certain you will thank me for it.  If you are anything like me, it will give you a satisfied feeling at the end of the day and will allow you to enjoy a restful evening.  You deserve it!

And if you have any inbox hacks of your own, do share!

Want Additional Support?

In the meantime, if you would like help on improving your performance and productivity, to get in touch or call me on 0345 130 0854.

To your success

Tricia Woolfrey

PS If you haven’t already, do sign up to my newsletter which contains more hints and tips to improve performance, productivity and reduce stress. You will also receive a free tool to help you in your work.

PPS Do suscribe to my YouTube channel which has lots of videos on how to manage stress and more.

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What is Integrative Coaching?

Integrative CoachingCoaching is a wonderful tool for those who care about getting results with more ease:  it helps you achieve your goals by creating practical action plans, using tools and techniques to help achieve them and helping you to build skills to facilitate the change you seek.

Integrative Coaching does the same but it goes deeper, if required.  Because sometimes there is a reason that goal achievement is elusive, or perhaps challenging.  Integrative Coaching looks at what is blocking you.  Unless the blocks are removed, problems will recur, especially in times of challenge.  Integrative Coaching, a more sustainable approach, will look at the psychological blocks, the biological ones (tired all the time is a common factor), the emotional ones (stress and anxiety for example) plus more.

Author Philippe Rosinski says it is “… a holistic approach that calls upon multiple interconnected perspectives to facilitate the unleashing of human potential towards meaningful pursuits … from the physical to the spiritual.”  In the A-HEAD for Success terms, spiritual is all about purpose and meaning.  When you are aware of and completely aligned to that, everything else becomes easier and clearer.

Three Levels of Integrative Coaching

Integrative Coaching is at the forefront of The A-HEAD for Success 5D Coaching Model ™ which helps provide three levels of integrative coaching through the 5 Dimensions (Clarity, Skillset, Mindset, Stress-Resilience, Health and Energy).  Of course we only work at the level of need but the process helps identify the need which is different for everyone.

  1. Integrating a variety of approaches tailored to suit your specific needs
  2. Integrating mind and body. A good example is that a client may present with any number of physical symptoms.  For example: exhaustion  (my latest book explains how complicated this condition is and why the integrative approach is so important), insomnia, headaches or Irritable Bowel Syndrome to name a few.  Though there may be physical causes to these, there may also be emotional and lifestyle factors involved.  Stress is very often a factor in IBS so we deal with it from a multifaceted perspective.
  3. Integrating parts of the self. This deals with self-sabotage which may be impacting performance, health, relationships and more.  So we address this internal conflict:  if you feel that you have your foot on the breaks and the accelerator at the same time, self-sabotage may very well be at play, but it is often subconscious so you need to work with an expert to deal with it.

Conventional coaching tends to be somewhat formulaic and will not always address the finer details which can so impact on us.  Integrative Coaching helps address the complexity of what it means to be a functioning person in a dynamic world.

Want to know how it might help you?  Call me, Tricia Woolfrey, on 0345 130 0854 to find out more.  Calls are no-obligation and completely confidential.

© Tricia Woolfrey

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Source of Negative Stress: Deadlines

Stress and deadlines
As we near the end of my series of articles on sources of negative stress, we will explore the common stressor:  deadlines.  Deadlines can certainly add to your sense of stress, especially if there is a lot at stake:  perhaps your reputation, or a valued customer, or an important sale which is the difference between making target or not.

Yet, without deadlines, tasks can stretch to fill the time available.  And, of course, if there is no deadline, the time available is all the time in the world.  That is until the consequences are felt too strongly and too late to do anything about it.

There are five main questions to consider about deadlines:

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Source of Stress: Failure

Source of Stress: FailureI doubt there is a person alive who enjoys the prospect or experience of failure.  But for those who value success, failure is a necessary part of that journey.

A popular NLP concept is that ‘there is no failure, only feedback’.  And Thomas Edison really understood this principle when he viewed his many attempts to create a commercially viable lightbulb not as failure but that he had found 10,000 ways in which it did not work.

What this shows is that success is a process.  That you have to learn to get up when you fall down; learn from your mistakes; and have a relentless vision to keep you going.

Famous Failures

Any person who has failed in any endeavour will be in good company – other ‘failures’ include:

Steve Jobs who was fired from his own company;

Walt Disney who was fired for lack of imagination;

Oprah Winfrey who was demoted as a new anchor for being unfit for TV;

The Beatles who were rejected by Decca  who didn’t like their sound and thought they had no future in show business;

Einstein who couldn’t speak until he was 4 and whose teachers said he wouldn’t amount to much;

Bill Gates, a dropout from Harvard, founded Traf-o-Data.  The product had too many bugs and the company closed.  He is now the richest man in the world;

Marilyn Monroe who was told by Colombia Pictures that she wasn’t pretty or talented enough to be an actress.

So, you see, failure is not an affliction.  It doesn’t have to define you.  It is your attitude to it that defines you.  With all the people mentioned, they used it to spur them on.  They learned from their mistakes so that they could improve, and improve some more.  And improve again.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers describes the ‘10,000 hour rule’, emphasising that success is rarely by accident but rather by practice.  Somehow, in this world of ‘instant fixes’ we have lost sight of the fact that anything worth having takes effort.  And persistence.  And the ability to not take things personally but rather to use every challenge on the ladder towards success, knowing that you will slide down the odd snake as you work your way up, only so that you develop resilience, resourcefulness and insights that will serve you well.

The Three Worst Things You Can Do

If you make a mistake, the three worst things you can do are:

  1. Pretend it didn’t happen. Denial is no friend.
  2. Take it personally. Blaming and shaming get in the way of learning and growing.  Think of the difference between “I am a failure” and “It was a failure”.  One is a about identity and the other is about process and results.
  3. Give up.  When you give up, you miss opportunities.  Sometimes success us just around the corner.  You also deny yourself the sense of achievement you can only get when you have worked hard to achieve something, navigated difficult waters, climbed a mountain or five, and made it.  You don’t get that sense of achievement when everything is easy.

Show me a person who has not failed at some point in their lives and I will show you someone who has not reached their potential or who has lived within the safe but entirely unexciting and unrewarding confines of their comfort zone.

If you would like more help in overcoming a fear of failure, or learning how to grow from failure, why not book a session?  You’ll be glad you did.

 

(C) Tricia Woolfrey 2019

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How is Your Mental Health?

World Mental Health Day and Stress

It’s World Mental Health Day until the 10th  and I thought I would give you a heads up as a part of my Causes of Stress series.  Since my work revolves around performance, productivity, stress resilience and health and energy, mental health is at the centre of it all so it is a good time to reflect on it and to share with you something to help make sure that yours is optimal.

You see, we all have mental health.  The question is not whether you have it but in what condition it’s in.  Would you describe yours as Optimal?  Functional?  Variable?  Or On the Floor?  There are three main components to mental ill-health:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Of course, it isn’t as simple as that but it’s a really good start.  There will be times when you feel you can do anything, but there will be times when you do feel stressed, depressed or anxious and each day feels like you’re wading through treacle, with weights on your ankles and a monkey on your back.

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Sources of Negative Stress: Regrets

Stress, regrets and hindsightIf you are living with regrets, it can feel as though the past is ever-present, tarnishing what is good and holding you back.   Yes, regrets can be stressful.  They can certainly keep you awake at night.  They can also affect how you manage, and engage in, your daily life.

Regrets can be for something you did which you shouldn’t have or something you should have done which you didn’t.

In the moment that you do something (or decide not to), you do so with our best thinking at the time.   As someone

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5 Keys to 2017 Being Your Best Year EVER (2.5 mins to read)

2017 Best year yetMost people want each new year to be their best.  But with much less stress.   And more fun.  And bigger results.  If possible.  So, is it really possible?  If we accept that we can only control the controllable and take response-ability for our results in a focussed way, I would say a resounding ‘yes’.  But too often we give our power away to outside forces.  So, the following keys will help you take charge and make it happen:

  1. Get clarity

Become clear on what you want to achieve (your vision and goals) and why.  The why is your motivation which carries you through the tough times so it needs to be big enough to do that.  It makes all the difference between achievement and enrichment – two concepts which are not mutually exclusive unless you make them so.  Clarity enables you to say ‘no’ to those things which are not ‘on-purpose’ so it frees up more time for you to do what’s needed to fulfil your goals.

Clarity around how you are going to achieve it is next.  When you break things down into your priorities, the next step is easier to take.  And the one after that.  And the one after that.

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10 Traits of Successful People

10 Traits of Successful People10 Traits of Successful People

You could argue that most people want to achieve more success with less stress.  Whether you feel your efforts are yet to be rewarded with results or your success has come at too high a price, there are factors which characterise those who have a positive success formula.  Though of course it will vary from person to person, there are common themes:

  1. Clarity

The very first component for success is to have clarity of purpose, mission and goals and to keep these in sight.  When you have this kind of clarity, all your efforts are focused in the right direction – so you spend much less time readjusting, backtracking and regretting.

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A-Z of Business: Z- ZEN – Can Mindfulness be Profitable?

Mindfulness in BusinessWhen I started out in business in 1998, success to me was the achievement of a particular goal, be it profit-related, the completion of a project or the acceptance of an idea.  And while these are true, they are concerned with the what of success, not the how.

Over the years, I have studied many psychological and business-school concepts.  And what is missing for most people is the application of zen principles to business.

For the purpose of this article, the term zen can be considered as the mindful engagement with your work and operation of your business (or your job if you work for someone else).  This means being purpose-ful about what you are doing and why, from a macro perspective and a micro perspective.

So, to begin with, why do you do what you do?  What purpose does your business (or job) fulfil?  I am reminded of an old parable about a man who visited a city many hundreds of years ago.  He came across two men labouring under the noonday sun.  He asked the first what he is doing “Oh, I am just doing some labouring.  It is hard work and I will not be finished for hours.”  He asked the same question to the second man who responded “I am helping to build a cathedral”.  This story beautifully describes the purpose of their work.   One saw it is a job, a means to an end, something he had to endure each day.  The second man saw it as a vocation and put his heart and soul into each stone he laid.  Which man was likely to have been more productive?  Which man happier?  Which would have inspired others?  And which went home with a sense of achievement?

Are you clear about what your business is there to achieve in terms of a higher purpose?  If you are in business purely for money, as a lot of people are, what is the higher purpose that money is there to achieve?  For example, let’s take a cleaning company.  Not the most glamorous of businesses and fraught with day to day problems.  It would be easy to get bogged down in the nitty gritty of the issues around difficult customers and unreliable staff.  So, what is the higher purpose?  This would be personal to everybody but it may be to provide a beautiful environment for your clients to live or work.  Or it may be to provide work and career opportunities for employees who have had difficulty holding down a job in the past.  Or, if you really have no passion for the work at all, it may be to provide a good education for your children so that they can be free to make more fulfilling career and life choices for themselves.

When you have an over-riding purpose, it can carry you through the most challenging of times.  It can pull you out of the mire of the day to day and into a higher, more creative, more empowered mindset.  Which is likely to create more profit for you?

At a micro level, it is about being purpose-ful in the moment.  This means applying yourself 100% to whatever it is you are doing, fully absorbed.  The ability to multi-task is seen as a skill and even a virtue.  It is something I have been proud to call a skill.  And it is.  But it is also a weakness.  I noticed myself yesterday doing something and then stopping it to start something else and then interrupting myself doing that to do yet something else.  I realised that I have become so “skilled” at multi-tasking and responding to requests and interruptions that I now interrupt myself!  So I have to remind myself and, when I do, there is a flow to my work.  A peacefulness, a quiet productivity which is enriching and rewarding.  Of course there are times when I have to multi-task and over the years of my career I have had to do this thousands of times, shifting gear at a moment’s notice, which is why it is a difficult habit to break.  However, the effort of stopping and starting and stopping and starting again reduces productivity and increases stress.  It is important to be able to do it but not to make it a way of life.

True multi-tasking is a myth as usually you are simply stopping and starting, picking up and putting down.  I recently saw a cartoon about women being great multi-taskers.  It showed a woman flying through the air with a duster in one hand to clean the ceilings and pushing a vacuum with the other to clean the floors.  But in reality it is really very difficult to apply yourself fully to more than one task at once.  Sure you can wait on the phone for someone to pick up while you file something away but in reality, you are almost always only doing one thing at once.  Doing that one thing with a sense of purpose can bring a richness to the most mundane of tasks.  Most people hate filing but if you do your filing with an intention to create order in your environment this can transform the experience and it can even feel meditative.  In addition, thinking about the piece of work that paper represents with an attitude of gratitude and appreciation can be equally rewarding.  Certainly better than attacking the filing with a feeling of resentment and obligation.

So, the concept of applying yourself 100% to whatever you are doing in the moment, thinking about the purpose of that task, brings with it a higher level of clarity and productivity, a calmer demeanour and a much nicer person to take home to the family!  This brings with it greater financial profit but also an intrinsic profit which is priceless.

And last, but by no means least remember the principles of karma – that you reap what you sow.  So, be kind in your interactions and you will be richly rewarded with deeper and more trusting relationships as well as greater loyalty with your associates, your employees and your clients.

If you would like to learn more about how mindfulness can enhance your productivity and your profits, call me on 0845 130 0854.

On this note we end my A-Z of Business blogs, which I hope have been productive for you. As we enter the new year, I hope that your 2014 business plans are clear – your company goals, business values, products and USP…and that you feel personally prepared to take on the year ahead, manage your time effectively, serve your customers and motivate your staff. For any additional support, do contact me at tricia@pw-consulting.co.uk. I wish you a very happy new year and a successful 2014!
 

© Tricia Woolfrey 2014

About Tricia Woolfrey – click HERE to find out about the author.

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