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Why Inbox Zero?

Todd Kaneby Todd Kane @ Fully Managed™
Posted 2 years ago

Email is a blessing and a curse. It’s a low cost asynchronous communication tool. Modern businesses almost don’t exist without some level of email use. However, this revolutionary tool can be a beast to maintain. Here are some tips to help you #GSD and tame the inbox.

 You may have heard the term inbox zero. Inbox Zero means not having any email in your inbox. Sound impossible? It’s really not. Think David Allen GTD, Process, Action, Review. Email is the perfect place to practise. Email is great for many things, but it’s terrible as a filing system or a collaboration platform.

  1. Process – Yes, you need to read most of your email, but you probably don’t need to read your email CONSTANTLY through the day. Every hour is probably fine if you rely on email a lot, and every 3-4 hours if you don’t. How is this possible, you say? Email is by nature, not a time-sensitive communication medium. If something is truly urgent, that person should be connecting by IM, phone, or in person. This can take some cultural re-education, but often isn’t as much of an issue as people assume it will be.
  2. Action – Emails should be viewed as informational OR actionable.
    • Informational (limited value) – these are emails of someone confirming a question, newsletters, CC’s, other trivial data points. Delete these immediately after reviewing.
    • Informational (high value) - Some emails contain useful information that you could need to refer to in a few weeks or months. These can be archived in some filing system like Onenote, Evernote or other indexed tool. Many people create a folder structure to squirrel stuff away, but this isn’t ideal for many reasons. Most of which are technical, but also segregating the task from the communication can be beneficial to your productivity. Not spending 80% of your day in your email app will naturally allow you to focus on your priorities, and not be distracted by your latest email.
    • Actionable – A number of emails will necessitate action. “Can you…?” “This needs to be done by…” The actions are best managed by defining a due date and scheduling for yourself. Email is again not the best way to manage these tasks, using a complementary system like Todoist, Asana, ConnectWise, or simply a paper notebook list. Your to-do list helps to keep your inbox clean and your to-dos out of your head.
  3. Review – Since your inbox is clean and only being used as a collection space, you shouldn’t have to spend as much time in email. Focus on your to-do list. Review the items, what is due, what is urgent, what requires scheduling, etc. Review at least daily and weekly to ensure you’re stacking your activities as required for maximum efficiency.


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