My email always used to be out of control, and many replies would start with a 'sorry for the delay in getting back to you' line. I found I dreaded opening up Gmail and looking at emails that I'd read, but hadn't worked out what needed doing on them. I tried all sorts of ways to tame my inbox like starring emails, creating tasks, and using an add-on called Taskforce but found nothing really worked until I came across Inbox Zero.
'Inbox Zero is a thing that was cooked up by Merlin Mann, the creator of 43folders.com.
It’s about how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life.
That “zero?” It’s not how many messages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it'.
If you need to bring some sanity to your email, then I'd really recommend this. There's lots of good ideas offered, but the important part for me is that any email has a limited number of actions possible.
In preferred order, they are:
- Delete (or archive)
As this is mainly my personal email account, I don't normally need to delegate, but I immediately label a message and then archive it. As you can see from my screenshot, my Inbox is empty which I absolutely love! At the time of this screenshot, I had some sub-categories of my @ do and @ reading labels to make it easier to spot what's outstanding, but I've now deleted them as those specific messages are dealt with. When I first started using Gmail I went a bit crazy with the labels, but have found the less the better, especially where the search function is so good (unlike Outlook!). As you can see, I also use @ someday/maybe and @ waiting for which I've been using since getting into GTD. I do have other labels, like shiatsu and aikido, but they're more for archiving. I've set most of the labels to only show in the list if there are unread items, and many @ reading emails skip the inbox and show up as an unread count instead.
At the moment I have a fair number of emails to work through which is just down to sheer laziness. I've realised recently that I'm not as good as I thought at completely relaxing, so I'm being lazy on purpose, if that makes sense? I do feel though that getting to zero won't be hard work, which is a real change. If you could peek into my filofax, you'd find next actions called 'get @ do to zero' and 'get @ reading to zero'.
I then use use an online timer called Tick Tock to help me focus solely on that task for the given time, after clearing away any distractions and making a lovely cup of (normally rooibos) tea. I'll then treat myself to some thing like reading the Philofaxy web finds or playing Phoenix Wright on my DS lite!