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Inbox Zero

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If you are like me, you probably live in your email. Its a monster at times. But great management of your inbox can be an amazing thing.
Recently someone shared a great video from Merlin Mann speaking at Google with me. Its a long one, but great. If you are familiar with the books by David Allen Getting things Done, or Ready for Anything, you’ll understand where this is coming from.


I wanted to share the video, but also share some of my take home points, since its 50 minutes long.

  • Your email is simply a medium for communication. Keep it that way
  • Process all emails to zero. Sort, store and apply actions each time you check your mail
  • Decide in the moment you check an email what that next action is
  • checking email is not enough.
  • Think of email as working at a deli, taking orders for customers. Taking the order isn’t enough, it requires an action, an order to be fulfilled. Different orders require different actions.
  • Define a certain number of possible outcomes for each email. Merlin Mann’s 5 are: Delete, Delegate, Respond (in under 5 sentences), Defer for later action, and Do Now.
  • Dont be afraid of junking or Deleting emails. If no action is needed, and move on
  • Keep your system simple
  • Your inbox is for stuff you havent read yet. thats it
  • a PDA or Blackberry will not help if you dont have a system
  • Make this process a habit

Quick tips for keeping the process going

  • Turn off the email while working on other things
  • Limit the time you check your email (like for 10 minutes each hour) and move on

Overall this is common sense. But I find it hard to keep up with.
I have been trying these things so far:

  • Only checking and responding to yesterdays mail
  • Set up smartFolders to sort certain types of emails
  • Only checking emails once an hour for fires to be put out, If there are no fires, I move on.
  • Using a to do list for action items
  • I am trying to keep on my 5 actions for all emails

So what do you think? Are you trying anything on this list, or anything different?