If you read my last post on my effective use of the Pomodoro productivity system, you may not be clear about how I am currently managing my inbox zero. As I have mentioned before, inbox Zero was something I started in January of 2011 and with varying degrees of success have maintained for the last 15 months. Of those 15 months, the best months have been the last three.
So what am I doing now for inbox zero?
First let me give you the 30,000 foot level then. Will go into details. On weekdays I typically check my email several times a day, but only process my inbox twice a day.
What the heck is the difference?
I want to start with processing emails first because I think if I started with checking first it would not be as easy to follow.
I will typically process all the emails in my inbox twice a day on week days, then again on Sunday right before I do my weekly review. More coming on that soon too.
When I process my email, I am getting to inbox zero. Every email has a place, and I do what I can and make sure it gets there. My first task, after setting my Pomodoro timer, is I look through the emails for anything that should be deleted. Before I delete it, I ask myself is this something I can unsubscribe from. If the answer is yes i take the 30-60 seconds it takes to do so. You have no idea how much time this process will save you three months down the road when your inbox starts getting 95 emails a day instead of 146.
Once I delete what I can I then look at any news letters I have, scan them quickly and then either delete or email them over to Evernote with a read tag assigned for later reading.
Next I look at the remaining emails and see if there is anything that may look either time sensitive or maybe it’s an item I can do a required task in less than two minutes. I open these items one at a time. If the email is an action item I either delegate it, do it on the spot if it will take less than two minutes, or forward to Evernote to be placed on my action to do items. Then I either delete or archive the email.
Now once that is done I go to the bottom of the email list, to my oldest item, then start working up one item at a time. I use the same process as I read the email I decide if it is something I can just delete, delegate, complete quickly or email to Evernote as a todo item.
Once my inbox is at zero, usually takes about ten minutes once you get the system down, then I head to Evernote and make sure all the action items end up in a todo today list or a master action list for a future to-do session. You guessed it, more on that later.
And somewhere between 15-20 minutes after I started my inboxes are empty and that burden is off my shoulders. I can assure you, if you have never been an inbox zero person, and you become one, you will never wish you went back to that 15,000 inbox again.
Now many people who look at my system and use a system of processing email twice a day will tell you that is all you need to check your email. They are probably right. At times, that is all I have checked it, and I survived quite well, but I check it more often.
As I mentioned in my Pomodoro post, I work hard for 25 minutes then take 5 minutes for me. During this time, I do what I want and often I will open up my google apps account and look quickly at my emails.
When I do this, here are the rules I try to live by:
- Only look for email that may be time sensitive, something you were waiting for or motion critical If i open it and it is not one of those things I get out ASAP and move on If it is I process that email now and don’t wait.
- I try and never open an email more than once. I am successful at this maybe 60% of the time.
- There you have it. This is the system that has worked best for me over the past 15 months. It is not the only system, but it’s the one the Productive Dad uses. Let me know your system and remember.
I have never heard anyone who had an inbox zero say ”damn I wish I had more emails in my inbox”.
Next up how to get to zero when you are starting at 80k and what tools to make sure you never lose an email. This one will be dedicated to Jay Thompson