Some time ago, I came across something called Inbox Zero. I read a little bit about it and found some more information on it through Google. Inbox Zero was coined by Merlin Mann, author of 43 Folders website. I learned about it via another blog and checked for other resources and found a video on YouTube . Merlin Mann also follows GTD - a concept that is very popular in the productivity circles. I won't stray too much, but David Allen wrote a book called Getting Things Done and it has a very big following.
I read Getting Things Done some time ago, but thought the concepts were too much to implement. There's a lot of reading on productivity, I read more and more every day. One thing that pushed me to start was Inbox Zero, since it is such a unique concept that I can relate to and easily practice on a day to day basis.
I've taken inbox Zero in the following approach, with only three easy steps!:
- Check Emails less often, for me its usually 3-5 times a day, as opposed to several times every hour. Sometimes I do check it a little more often due to work requirements.
- Process and Delete. This is the meat of it as I discuss it below. Basically, delete, file or do!
- Review - Reviewing the things I still need to do in the Open and Pending Items folder.
Checking emails less often has helped me become much more productive. I won't go into too much detail, but just setting set times during the day that you know you will check emails instead of your usual routine can make a huge difference. For me, it means I can get other work done instead of going through my emails and spending time on more important things that can be done at that moment, such as writing this post!
Processing and Deleting emails makes the bulk of the work in my opinion. It feels good to ask yourself if you really need and email and once you decide you don't, its one less email to review again as it goes to the trash folder. I say process because I may not answer all emails right then and there. For short one sentence replies I usually do so right then and there, and it takes only a few extra seconds per email. For anything that may require a longer response or some thinking to be done on your part, the email goes into an open items folder. My mailbox currently contains only the following folders: inbox, open items, archive, trash.
Now comes review. Once you have processed your inbox to Zero, you are no longer working out of your inbox. This is a great motivating factor since you feel you accomplished something. Reviewing your open items, or whatever you want to name your folder, is the most important part in GTD. Most of the important items you get are in this folder. Things that need your attention and thought will be here. I will not go into further detail since this goes into another concept...Next Actions.
I will write a post on Next Actions soon. Hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful. Will you give Inbox Zero a try? Can you simplify it more? Do you think its too simple to be effective?