Today, I saw a tweet that says it all:
There are plenty of productivity specialists and thought leaders with email management systems. My favorites by far always center around the concept of zero inbox. Zero inbox is very simple at it’s core: you (somehow) process all of your email, eventually reaching a point where you have no more emails in your inbox. Sound like heaven? Then read on.
Reaching Zero Inbox
- Plan a specific time (or times) during the day to go through your messages
- Make a decision about every message. You might take an action (respond, delete) immediately, or file for later review (defer) or forward to someone else (delegate).
- Move the message! Responded messages can be stored in reference folders or a general archive, deleted messages obviously go in the trash. Deferred messages should be placed into an appropriate file/folder, such as “monthly bills” or “receipts”. Delegated messages should be placed into a folder to check periodically until a response is received.
- Review your folders for “actionable” items – stuff you need to do – regularly. Once a day you might check over your folders for daily to dos, and once a week you might do a more thorough review to follow up on items you delegated, check to see if items deferred have become actionable, and clean out emails you no longer need.
Use the right tools
One word: Gmail. It’s worth switching email systems for this. Use Gmail’s built in Archive system to archive mail, and use labels to create virtual folders (nested labels, too!). You might even automate it using Gmail’s filters, and SmartLabels. If you took my advice and set up Priority Inbox, you can keep an eye on important email regularly throughout the day.
- Forward those “To Do” emails to a task system like Producteev right away.
- At your desktop in Gmail, emails relating to events can be easily turned into Google Calendar events.
- Create events for paperless bills on their due date, then label as “Bills”.
- Tell Producteev and Google Calendar to notify you once a day in the morning of all the items due/scheduled that day – instant agenda.
It’s a relief to know what you have to do
It seems terrifying at first, but the knowledge that the stuff on your to do list is the stuff you should be spending time on is a huge weight off the mind. More often than not, we procrastinate simply because we aren’t sure of what to do next. And the longer you wait, the more stressful determining that next step seems.
Give it a try, and let me know what you think in the comments!