Two months and a week ago, I blogged about how I was experimenting with inbox zero, that is keeping my email inbox pared down to just a few messages that required action. This represented a major changing in thinking for me. For more than a decade I typically had thousands of uncategorized emails in my inbox (and many more thousand filed in folders). I never found that to be a problem.
Well, I’m here to tell you that this new system is fantastic. I now make an effort to have no more than 15 emails in my inbox when I stop working for the day. And I’ve actually pared it down further. Right now I’m at five. It feels like a miracle. Now that I’m down to five, I’m going to change my goal to having no more than 10 emails in my inbox at the end of the day.
Once I’ve responded, I move the message to my “Archive (handled)” folder. And I’m finally developing the habit of moving those messages as I respond. (I wish I could find a way to ask the Mac to do that for me automatically.) Thanks to the miracle of Mac Mail’s “spotlight” feature, I can easily search for any email.
This new system has a number of advantages. Email is no longer overwhelming for me. It’s prompting me to respond immediately to messages and only wait on those things I simply can’t respond to. It’s easy for me to see what email-related tasks are outstanding. And, of course, it doesn’t tax my over-burdened memory since no longer have to remember action items that are hiding amongst the other messages in my inbox.
I think the reason I’ve been able to do this for a couple of months is that my pal Aby Garvey of simplify101 has been my accountability partner. I do the same for her. Each night we email one another our inbox status. It’s really motivating.
If you feel like you’re swimming in email, you might give it a try. Here’s an article from LifeHacker that explains a similar system. My new system eliminates the Follow Up and Hold folders…I just put everything into Archive if it doesn’t require action. And I leave it in inbox if it does (no need for the Follow Up or Hold folders).