Inbox Zero

I’ve been toying with this idea for a few years, and I do try and make a start on clearing things, but I give up before I make any discernible dent.

As I am in a full-time job with a huge workload, plus trying to get my doctorate par-time, I have been making a conscious effort to become more organised. There are a couple of main issues that I need to tackle, and one of them is my inbox. For now I am concentrating on my work email address, as opposed to my personal one. I keep them very separate, and use my work email for work-related things only. I use Microsoft Outlook, which is what the university provide. I don’t download the emails onto my Mac, they stay in Outlook, that way, I tend to try and only deal with them when I am in work mode.

I initially came across the concept when I started getting interested in Getting Things Done by David Allen (more about that another time). I was reading a lot of websites around the theme of productivity, and came across 43 Folders. Merlin Mann created the concept Inbox Zero, claiming it helped him focus. The main concepts are as follows:

DELETE – emails from subscriptions, spam emails, emails where you were mentioned in CC for no reason, emails that don’t need any response or action are all useless. They must be deleted.
DELEGATE – you can never do everything alone. If the action that needs to be taken is worth being delegated, just created a task for the assignee.
RESPOND – some of emails are still being just emails. They need nothing but your response. Make it as short, quick and valuable as it’s possible. Never start long conversations – better schedule a brief meeting instead.
DEFER – Send it to your to-do list with low priority. Set a deadline to do it later.
DO – Send it to your to-do list with high priority. Do what you should.

In order to get inspired, here are some poignant words from Merlin Mann himself…

A priority is more than just a good idea, a priority is the one thing that’s not allowed to die’.