A while ago I picked up Merlin Mann's (of 43 Folders fame) Inbox Zero philosophy and since, have been recommending it to friends. It's a great way to deal with your daily load of email, still one of the biggest distractions in the digital life.

It's just very fulfilling to see your mail inbox actually empty. If you like GTD then even more so, since you get that same warm and fuzzy feeling when you're done processing your inbox items.

Inbox at zero

Merlin held a presentation on the subject at Google and you can find the slides together with the speech over at 43 Folders

I know some people who keep all their mail in their inbox and are comfortable with that. Others just collect mail and some day get the fear of not being able to keep up with it. There are several options here. If it's not too much, sit down and take some time to process all of it. Get it out of your system. The other and even more drastic option: email bankruptcy which basically means to wipe everything from your inbox and start over with an empty one. Apparently it has worked for several people.

To get to inbox zero on a daily basis, you basically take time out of your day, say twice, to process every new mail. For me that workflow looks like this:

  • Read it
  • Does it need an action? If so, I reply if necessary, or file a task into my OmniFocus inbox. Then I file the mail using MailTags and Mail Act-On. Both great tools.
  • Doesn't need an action? Then file it or delete it.

It's so simple and it doesn't even take too long. Just spending ten minutes will mostly do. The result? The fulfilling feeling of having an empty inbox of course. The knowledge of having to care about those mails anymore. Until the next ones come in, that is.

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