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How to reach the elusive ‘inbox zero’ without spending every minute of your day at your desk

Dec 18, 2020

A guest blog by virtual assistant Hayley White, VirtuVA

There’s nothing worse than grabbing your coffee, sitting down at your desk and turning on your laptop ready to start the day afresh… only to immediately be overwhelmed by a large bold number of unread emails staring back at you demanding your attention before you can even start work. Reaching ‘inbox zero’ is a pipe dream for most of us and often seems unobtainable, but it is doable… if you know how.

These are my top tips for reaching Inbox Zero, without having to spend every waking second hunched over your device reading, writing and deleting.

Get organised

When you do have some time to work through emails, set up a system that works for you. That may be folders for different categories, colour codes for varying priorities/urgency, auto-responses if you’re busy or need to put out a ‘holding’ message and set up rules so that the right things can be auto-filed into the right places.

While you’re there: turn off unnecessary notifications. You only really need to be notified of urgent actionable messages. Everything else can wait until you’re not otherwise occupied.

Set aside short bursts of time to manage emails

Inbox management is a job in itself. Set aside 10-15 mins every couple of hours to scan through, respond to anything you need to and clear out those you can quickly (such as diary invites you can one-click an accept or decline to). Block these times out in your diary so they don’t get interrupted.

If something requires a thorough response and you’re not in a position to do it in the 10 or so minutes you have to do so, email saying you’ll respond in full later and schedule out further time to do so.

Use a task management system

If you find that you receive a lot of emails requiring complex responses that can’t be typed out in a minute or so, use a proper task management system such as Trello. These programs can be set so that emails can be forwarded directly to a to-do list so that you don’t lose track of them or say you’ll respond and then forget.

Task management programs can be used in all kinds of different ways depending on the user’s intention and can prove invaluable to maintaining some structure to inbox management! They do need setting up, but once in place can seamlessly link with most major email programs.

Get help

If you really don’t have the time or the mental capacity to file through emails several times a day and ensure they’re properly allocated out and dealt with, consider either employing or outsourcing. PA’s and VA’s can manage client inboxes and can keep you updated and notified with urgent requests and messages, whilst prioritising those that don’t need a rapid response to be looked at and actioned later on.

Reaching that elusive ‘Inbox Zero’ and maintaining it can feel like a monumental task. But by following my tips you’ll soon be in the habit of dealing with your emails quickly and efficiently, meaning you keep your mind clear to focus on what’s important to you without getting hung up on the small stuff.


Hayley White - VirtuVAAfter an 11 year career in Human Resources (HR) and the need to find a balance with family life, Hayley started her business as a virtual assistant. Working under the name VirtuVA, she is able to provide administrative and HR support to all kinds of busy people, in all manner of demanding positions and roles.

Admin is an unavoidable part of everyday business life - Hayley can look after your business affairs from her remote office, giving you the valuable time to concentrate on what matters most – generating more business and achieving your goals.

If you are struggling with your admin - get in touch with Hayley - virtuva.co.uk - she loves it!

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