We all struggle to get to to the promised land known as inbox zero. Unfortunately, managing your inbox can kill productivity, take time away from important projects, and cause unnecessary stress. Luckily, your assistant is trained to be a master organizer and can take care of your email for you! You can officially reach inbox zero because your brain won’t have to sit in your email all day.

Inbox management is a very important task that should be delegated in stages. In the beginning, you’ll have to devote time to give instruction and answer questions. Communication is key and will pay off in the end!

Here are some steps to get started:

1. Provide Access to Your Inbox

This one is easy! Tell your assistant which mail service you use and give the appropriate login credentials. You can also give delegate access to your assistant’s email.

2. Determine How Your ZA Will Help

There are several things your ZA can do to manage your inbox. As mentioned before, you want to start slowly. You can delegate each of the following steps to your assistant. Let her master one step before moving onto the next.

  1. Filters and Folders: If you already have filters and folders, explain to your assistant what these are for and discuss appropriate changes. If you don’t have either, she can set them up for you.

  2. Responding to Emails: Decide which emails your ZA will handle. Will she be taking care of all or some of the emails?

    • Tell your assistant which emails you want her to take care of (ie scheduling requests, bill payment reminders, or personal items).

    • It’s usually a good idea for you to handle time sensitive requests and those that require your expertise.

  3. Responding on Your Behalf: If you want to take it a step further, your assistant can respond to emails on your behalf.

    • Your assistant can create drafts for you to approve and send.

    • If your assistant will respond to similar requests frequently, she can create and use canned responses.

    • Let her know how you’d like her to communicate. For example, explain how to greet your friends, colleagues, clients, etc.

3. Create Guidelines

It’s important to develop a procedure for managing your inbox.

  • Decide which time(s) each day your ZA will check your inbox

  • Determine next steps for emails that need your attention.

    • Will your ZA leave them unread or organize into a folder?

  • Establish rules for certain contacts or subjects.

    • If email is from X person, do this. If email contains information about X subject, do this.

    • Automatically archive emails from X company; Automatically unsubscribe if X

      • ZA should NEVER delete anything

    • When in doubt, do X (“leave as unread in inbox and address during phone conversation”; “filter to ‘questions’ folder and address during phone conversation”; “text immediately”; etc.)

    • Your assistant can compose a list of VIP contacts and frequent topics of discussion

  • Each day, schedule a time to have a short conversation to answer questions and discuss certain items in your inbox.

    • How would you like this information presented to you?

      • In a document with name, email address, time of email, content of email copied

      • In a document with email address and summary of content

      • ONLY over the phone

4. Demonstrate

We recommend making a screencast of yourself demonstrating how you’d like your assistant to manage your inbox. This way, you can take her through the process without writing down any steps. Your assistant will likely have less questions and learn faster with a screencast as a resource. You can also screenshare when you’re reviewing the process.

Everyone has to manage their inbox, but you don’t have to do it by yourself! Whether you want to delegate part of your inbox or the whole thing, we’re here to help.