How does your inbox make you feel?
Do you feel energized? Or do you feel stressed and overwhelmed — like you'll never catch up?
Now imagine Inbox Zero: flying through your email until no messages remain!
Every week, we welcome hundreds of new customers to Superhuman — the fastest email experience in the world. Through tens of thousands of personalized onboardings, we've seen how the most productive people in the world get through hundreds of emails a day.
Their success comes down to 9 techniques...
1. Trash your folders
Labeling emails or dragging them into folders can feel orderly and satisfying.
But if you file emails manually, you're wasting colossal amounts of time. It actually takes longer to find an email via folders than search.
In fact, you'll save more than an hour each week if you simply stop manually filing emails or applying labels.
Next time you're about to file an email, resist the urge — or let your email client do the hard work. You can set up rules to do it automatically… we'll show how in step 6!
2. Use keyboard shortcuts
This one is simple: don't touch your mouse!
Email power users love keyboard shortcuts. You can instantly do any action — search, reply, even schedule meetings — all without ever leaving your keyboard.
You're more likely to use keyboard shortcuts if you're surrounded by others who do so. And while many people never learn them at all, it is a habit worth building. Get familiar with keyboard shortcuts and you will save 17 days per year!
In Superhuman, we make it very easy to learn keyboard shortcuts. If you want to do something, but don't know the shortcut, just open Superhuman Command. You can do the action immediately, and see the shortcut for next time!
3. Process your inbox once or twice per day
Limit your inbox time to once or twice per day.
If you don't set aside specific time for email, you'll be dragged into your inbox throughout the day — especially if you've set up notifications. Interruptions make you compensate for lost time by working faster, which means you'll make more mistakes.
With dedicated times for email, you can fire off replies whilst staying in flow. And as a bonus, you'll set the expectation that you are not available 24/7!
4. Archive your backlog
When you approach a new task, your brain enters 1 of 2 modes: mind-wandering mode or task-focused attention.
A daunting inbox primes your brain for mind-wandering mode. This distracts you from the email you're replying to, as well as from any other tasks you're attempting.
So clean your slate! First, decide on your own personal "use-by date" for email.
Will you really reply to emails older than a month, or even a week? We all intend to, so we keep them in our inbox out of misguided guilt. But we will probably never catch up, and guess what — the most productive people in the world don't even try!
Archive everything older than your use-by date. You'll be within a stone's throw of Inbox Zero, and able to focus on what matters.
Clearing your backlog is fast and safe with Superhuman's Select All From Here. Simply select everything past the horizon, then Mark Done:
Learn how Superhuman can help you get through your inbox twice as fast.
5. Don't mark as unread, archive instead
There are 2 ways of organizing an inbox.
You can let your inbox grow infinitely, and treat all unread emails as things to do. Or you can archive emails when done, and see your inbox itself as things to do.
It turns out to be much faster to do the latter.
If unread emails are your to-do list, you have to meticulously maintain the unread status. Let's say you receive an intriguing email — you can't help but open it. Now you have to mark it unread. But wait, there's one thing you want to check — so you open it again. And once again, you have to mark it unread.
If your inbox itself is your to-do list, you avoid this archaic ritual. Simply archive emails when done! The emails disappear from your inbox, and are easily found via search.
Not only is archiving faster, it creates a less stressful inbox.
This inbox uses the mark as unread approach. Your view is cluttered by emails that are done, and you can't even see the end of the list:
Whereas this inbox contains the same messages, but uses the archive approach. All you see are the emails to do, and the end of the list is plainly in sight!
6. Automate triage
Email volume isn't your only challenge. You also need to manage email variety.
The solution is "automatic triage" that groups your emails by type. And unlike manually filing messages in folders, you needn't lift a finger!
In an untriaged inbox, urgent emails hide in a deluge of Google Doc notifications. FYIs obscure time-sensitive opportunities. Calendar invites push critical messages ever deeper into your inbox.
If you reply to emails in the order they appear, your brain constantly changes gears. You flick back and forth between projects, alternate between brief acknowledgements and in-depth replies, and flip from updating your team to replying to mom.
This is task-switching — and it costs you valuable time.
Automatic triage is like using folders, but with zero effort. You can tackle emails in batches, with minimal task-switching and maximum speed.
Most email apps can group emails by basic type. Gmail, for instance, can organize incoming mail into categories like Primary, Social, and Promotions. But these groups are far too coarse for a work inbox — you still have to switch tasks within each group to achieve Gmail inbox zero!
Instead of struggling with prebuilt categories, design your own. In Superhuman, we call this Split Inbox. You can split your inbox into different streams, like "VIP", "Google Docs", "Calendar" and "Team" — and process them one stream at a time:
7. Set reminders to follow up
You're sending crucial emails: closing deals, meeting deadlines, or landing meetings. But people are busy and you might not hear back.
So what do you do? Perhaps you keep everything in your head, or use another tool to painstakingly track your to-do list.
Instead, set reminders. You will avoid this extra work, and dramatically speed yourself up.
After you send an email, use your email client's snooze feature to bring the email back in the future — for example, in 2 days.
In Superhuman, this is blazingly fast: you can set a reminder as you send, and we'll only remind you if you don't hear back. You'll follow-up on time, every time!
8. Create meaningful templates
Think about the most common requests you get via email.
Are they pitches, introductions, or messages from recruiters? What are the phrases you find yourself typing again and again? Capture this wording to use and reuse.
Replying with pre-written templates might sound impersonal. But done right, templates improve the content of your email — and will dramatically speed you up!
Emails don't communicate facial expressions or vocal inflections. That means there's a fine line between sending brisk, efficient messages and being blunt, or even rude.
It takes time to craft emails that strike the right tone, and that's where templates come in. Create a template once, then use it hundreds of times. Even when you're pressed for time, you can summon the perfect words — informative, thoughtful, and typo-free.
In Superhuman, we call them Snippets. They can include attachments, and even add people to CC!
9. Schedule your messages
Send hundreds of emails, and you'll get hundreds of emails in return. Your inbox is like the mythical Hydra: chop one head off, and several sprout in its place!
Unless the recipient is urgently waiting, schedule your send:
Time delivery to suit the recipient's work hours or time zone. If their notifications are on, you'll spare them out-of-hours interruptions. And most importantly, you won't get an instant reply that tempts you back into a thread!
Email power users love these techniques. With them, you can stay focused, clear your email, and consistently hit Inbox Zero.
Superhuman features to help you hit Inbox Zero
- Superhuman Command Hit Cmd+K — or two-finger tap — to perform any action and learn the keyboard shortcut for next time.
- Select All From Here Archive old email to bring Inbox Zero within sight.
- Split Inbox Group emails by type to minimize task-switching and focus on what matters.
- Remind Me Follow up on time, every time. You'll never drop the ball again.
- Snippets Create powerful templates that help you move twice as fast.
- Send Later Send at the perfect moment to ensure your emails are read.