It’s 9:57 p.m. on a Thursday night. Your partner is brushing their teeth, but you’re still seated on the couch where they left you after some Netflix (and chill).
And you’re scrolling.
Just a few more notification checks before you go to bed so that you can truly sign off for the night.
First, a quick Slack check. Did your colleague in Singapore make any updates to the slides?
Then, a Twitter DM check. Did that prospect ever ask for our pricing?
Then there’s the mandatory last scroll through TikTok, just to slow your brain down.
And while we’re at it, just one last (yes, LAST) email check.
And as your partner, slides on their eye mask and curls under the blanket — you check the time.
Turns out all those “quick checks” added up to a whopping 27 minutes.
You toss your phone down on the couch, defeated. Disgusted. And ashamed.
Inbox anxiety is no joke. And it always creeps up at the most inopportune moments.
That twenty minute break between two meetings.
When your toddler is yanking at your leg, begging you to read them Goodnight Moon.
Or when you are lacing up your sneakers for a mid-day run.
And there’s a cost to all this checking.
According to Harvard Business Review, full-time employees spend 2 hours and 36 minutes checking an average of 120 email messages in their inbox per day.
And that’s just email. The latest data shows that the average amount of time spent on social media is 2 hours and 27 minutes.
Between email and social media, chances are you’re spending more than 50% of your day processing your inboxes.
Deep inside, you know you should be focusing on more important “deep work.” But how on earth is that possible when the carousel of notifications continues to pile up?
Now, picture an alternate reality. Imagine getting to inbox zero in not just your email, but all the inboxes, social media sites, and communication platforms you have in one fell swoop.
In less than an 25 minutes (just one Pomodoro).
Every. Single. Day.
(And during your actual workday. Not as a part of your bedtime routine!)
Meet the Reach Inbox Zero Everywhere (RIZE) framework. RIZE allows you to:
- Literally reach inbox zero everywhere by strategically batching your inbox processing based on a predetermined frequency.
- Turn off ALL your notifications, because you’ll be checking them when you feel like it, not when they ding or pop up on your screen.
- Focus more of your energy on the work that really moves the needle.
Reaching inbox zero everywhere in less than a Pomodoro isn’t something that just happens. It requires a reimagination (and systematization) of your workflow.
Here’s how to implement RIZE in 5 simple steps:
STEP ONE: Make a List of Every Inbox
First, make a list for all the inboxes you need to check every day, week, or month, from Slack workspaces to email to social media.
Consider every website you stumble upon on a regular basis too. News sites, online stores, and favorite blogs could all be considered “inboxes” in that you like to regularly review them for new incoming information.
You have many more inboxes than just your email alone. List them all and get them out of your head. Don’t overthink it — you can always add new ones later.
STEP TWO: Determine the Frequency for Each Inbox
Next to every inbox you’re responsible for, identify the frequency that works best for your personal preferences or your company’s internal guidelines.
Be realistic with yourself. Not every inbox needs to be checked everyday. Use the following frequencies to keep things simple:
ASAP: The only inboxes that exist here are the emergency line of your choice (maybe your text messages?), any tool you use for your productive workflow (your calendar and your task manager), and any inboxes directly related to your role if you work in customer service. These are the only inboxes where you can keep your notifications turned on or have them open throughout the day. Everything else should be closed until its designated “RIZE time.”
Daily: Challenge yourself here. If you check things multiple times a day, see if you could go an entire 24 hours in between processing it. Email could belong here (unless you work in customer service). If you want to achieve email mastery, it’s worth experimenting with at least. Most of the social media that you check throughout the day belongs here too. It will probably be uncomfortable at first, but over time, you’ll learn to trust your system and be delighted not to have to check something again until tomorrow.
Weekly: These are the nice-to-have inboxes where you want to stay tuned to the pulse of what’s happening, but it’s not mission-critical for you to know what’s happening right away. Online stores, favorite blogs, and forums all make sense here.
Monthly: You probably won’t have a lot of inboxes here at first, but this is a great frequency to have as you are weaning yourself off of inbox addictions.
Spontaneously: This frequency is for that tough love. You may find that there are inboxes that are not necessary for you to check at all (looking at you TikTok!) and this is the frequency to assign to those. Maybe you recognize that it is a source for entertainment purposes only and you can indulge in it during your down time. Or, you could take it to the extreme, and decide that it’s not worth any of your time and you delete it from your phone. It’s up to you. This is a frequency that you won’t ever take intentional time to check because it’s not necessary.
After you assign the appropriate frequency, you get to take advantage of an old school productivity strategy: Batching.
STEP 3: Create New Lists of Your Inboxes based on Frequency
While there were five frequency categories to choose from, you really only need to make lists for three of them (daily, weekly, and monthly). ASAP inboxes will already have your attention front and center. Spontaneous inboxes shouldn’t be in your close reach at all.
You can write these lists in your task manager, notes manager, or calendar. Title them: Daily RIZE, Weekly RIZE, and Monthly RIZE.
Pro Tip: You could add your Weekly RIZE at the end of your Weekly Review time.
You can even use a bookmark tool to group all those inboxes by frequency so that it’s easy to open them all and process them one-by-one. As you reach inbox zero, you can close that tab and move onto the next one. (I like using the free One-Tab browser extension for this.)
STEP 4: Schedule Your RIZE Time Blocks
“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem. We all have twenty-four hour days.”Zig Ziglar
Set aside time to reach inbox zero everywhere and set aside time to do deep work. Make it intentional.
This allows you the freedom to be in your inboxes without feeling guilty that you’re not doing deep work. If both are scheduled in your calendar, you can trust that time has been set aside appropriately. You can engage in either guilt-free.
You can even turn on Do Not Disturb and get deep into brainstorming the answers to your next $10K question with ease, knowing exactly when you’ll get back to your customers and colleagues.
And since there’s a time boundary, there’s no dilly dally, which leads to your final step: how to get to inbox zero.
STEP 5: RIZE With One-Touch Processing
Go through every single email, DM, and notification one-by-one and “deal” with it as quickly as possible. You’re not in “doing” mode. You’re not in conversation mode. And you’re definitely not consuming large pieces of content.
Here’s the one-touch process:
- Create tasks in your task manager so that you can properly classify and prioritize them with all the other tasks you have. Your inbox is not your to-do list. Just because it’s in front of you doesn’t mean it deserves your attention now. When you see this email, run like hell.
- Send quick replies. But, if something requires a longer response, create a task for it.
- Put any blog posts, videos, podcast episodes, and books into their corresponding “read later” apps. (And if you’re wondering when to read, watch, or listen, create time blocks for that too. Don’t just to store stuff “just in case.”)
- Schedule time blocks, meetings, and events in your calendar, saving any event details as needed and archiving invites.
- Archive everything as soon as you’ve decided what to do with it, or mark notifications as read.
Once you clear one inbox, move on to the next one in your frequency checklist.
After Inbox Zero is Reached
Now that you’ve caught up on everything that was asking for your attention, you can focus on the real work to be done. You can look at your tasks and identify the highest leverage use of your time without recency bias, using metadata like $10K work classifications.
If you’re ready to create your own RIZE checklists in Notion, grab the template here.
When you approach your inboxes with intention, you will never dread getting caught up again. As your workday comes to an end, you can turn off all your devices and leave your worries behind. You have a system (batching all your inboxes by frequency) and a strategy (one-touch process) in place to effortlessly reach inbox zero everywhere — anytime you want.
“You get to decide where your time goes. You can either spend it moving forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.”Tony Morgan
About the Author
Marian Noble is a productivity and life design coach who enthusiastically empowers you to become more intentional in your day-to-day workflow so that you can flow through your life with ease.
At RadReads, she helps people around the world lead productive, examined, and joyful lives through her role as the product manager for Supercharge Your Productivity, a live cohort-based online course, and the $10K Accelerator, an exclusive community membership that delivers real-world and pragmatic skills across industries and experience level.
Marian loves checking off things on her to-do list, reaching inbox zero everywhere, and intentional time blocking almost as much as she loves taking really long hikes far, far away from her computer.
Reach out to Marian on Twitter @workflowwonder.