cryx: (danger)
I got asked how and when I managed to go from hundreds of emails in my inbox to 'inbox zero' recently, so I thought I'd capture my Facebook response here too, for future reference.

Hmm... Probably about 2 years ago now?! (it was after I found out a friend was inbox zero, so I realised it was actually possible) So, to summarise, what I did was:
First: move all my current email into a temporary folder called ##process me!!! (The # sign put it at the top of my folders)

Second: take a moment to bask in the glory of that empty inbox, this is the feeling we are chasing, so good to have a teeny taster, even if cheekily obtained.

Third: implement the new regime! Email will only be read once before you process it (I.e. decide what the next action to take is, and put that in your task/to-do list). This applies to ALL emails you get after the GRAND CLEAROUT. (Essentially it's treating your email inbox like you might your home physical mailbox, I.e. even if you take it out and put it on a 'huh, must deal with that pile' what you rarely do is, open mailbox > open piece of post > think "hmmm" > stuff it back into the envelope > stuff it back into the mailbox. Don't do it virtually either ;P )

Fourth: dedicate 15 minutes to process the most recent stuff in your ##process this folder. The process you follow is:
1. Is It actionable? If no, either trash it, or put it into your reference archive. If there is some action you could take: 1) if it would take under 2-4 minutes to do, JUST DO IT (it would take longer to make your task list item, and file it), or 2) if it would take longer, either add a note to your todo list about what the next physical action you need to take is (this makes it much more do-able than wooly non verb actions items), or if you need to do it at a certain time put a note in your calendar, 3) if someone else needs to do it, forward it on to them and put a note in your lists that you are waiting for them on it.

Repeat step 4, with breaks in between, so it doesn't burn you out.

I ended up with essentially 3 email folders in the end:
Reference - archive for stuff I might want to refer to at a later date
@action_support - for emails that I've got an item on my to-do list for
@waiting_for for my sent emails that I'm waiting for a response for.

Having this system in place means that even if I have a crappy few days and the emails pile up, it's pretty straightforward to slog back to inbox 0 again. Putting things in action support isn't the same as keeping them in the inbox, as to get in there I have to have made the decision about what to do next. It actually doesn't take that much thought, to define that, but it stops you having that repeated "huh, must do something about that (but not precisely knowing what that something is)" feeling (which I used to get sooo much) each time I looked at email.

Hope this long answer helps!!! (Essentially it's a version of the GTD system popularised by David Allen - which I thoroughly recommend)
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