It can be difficult to stay organized as a publishing professional. At Ooligan Press, we publish four titles throughout the year, and each title is at a different point in the publishing process at any given time. With multiple ongoing projects, dates, and deadlines to keep track of, it can often feel overwhelming.
Personally, I have found a lot of success in the “inbox zero” method as a way to stay on top of everything. This term, coined by productivity expert Merlin Mann, refers to the act of keeping your email inbox as clear as possible in order to stay on top of your tasks. Googling “inbox zero” will provide you with many different articles, lists, and recommendations on the components of inbox zero and how to achieve it. My version of this method, which is a very very simplified version of Mann’s suggestions, is to try to have very few emails in my inbox at any given time.
I think of the inbox zero method as a way of Marie Kondo-ifying my email. In her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Kondo talks about how clutter in our home can lead us to feeling mentally cluttered, or weighed down. On the flip side, a clean, organized, clutter-free space will help someone feel mentally clear. Kondo believes that a clear space is innately satisfying and, while I’m sure this isn’t the case for everyone, I strongly agree.
I have found that a full inbox makes it difficult for me to focus on what I need to work on. A full inbox of more than ten emails clutters my brain and leaves me feeling scattered. To fix this, I sort my emails into folders as soon as I complete any/all tasks associated with that email. That way, the only emails remaining in my inbox relate to tasks I have yet to complete or projects that still require action from me. If a minor task is required of me, such as filling out a google form or answering a quick question, I try to complete that right away so that the email does not sit in my inbox very long.
If an email is in regards to information that I should know but does not directly correspond to a task that I need to complete, I file it away in an email folder. I almost always file an email into a folder rather than deleting it. I have a folder titled “2022-2023 Projects” and sub-folders for each book Ooligan Press is currently working on. I also label and color-code the emails remaining in my inbox according to what book they are in relation to.
While I also rely heavily on my master schedule that outlines the dates and deadlines for each of our books, I have found this method to be extremely useful. It sounds simple, but prior to using the inbox zero method, I would often forget to complete small admin tasks or to follow up on an action item. This method helps me limit distractions that hinder my productivity and it helps me keep track of what is actually needed from me and what I need to prioritize.