Inbox Zero

    The mission – an empty inbox.  Not just empty once in a while, but always empty.

    Mission accomplished!

    Mission achieved by application of 5D.  Every email must be Dealt With, Deleted, Deferred (to a To Do list), Delegated, or Drawered (filed).  It can be done, the challenge is not letting bad habits creep back in.  Many years ago when business email was new, I went on a time management course.  The tutor advised to deal with email by deleting it all, and if it was important it would be sent again.  I am not sure if he was joking, or just didn’t “get” email.

    Today email is a burden.  It gets in the way, and piles up like an overflowing in tray, clamouring for attention.  I have tried taming the “beast” before, with some success, but slipped back into bad habits.  This time I have succeeded, not just with one email account, but with all 3 primary accounts.  Time will tell, but it’s looking good at the moment.

    My approach was to use the right tools and integrate them so 5D was easy.  Tool #1 Outlook, Tool #2 ToDoist, Tool #3 OneNote.  The key is to be able to easily, with the minimum of effort, move email that isn’t filed to a To Do list or Memo.

    So, as the inbox fills, empty it.  Can the email be dealt with there and then?  Deal with it, then Drawer it if it needs to be kept.  Can the email be dealt with another day?  Defer it to a To Do list, then Drawer it.  Todoist is my weapon of choice as in Outlook I can integrate Todoist and quickly set up a task using the email, and Todoist will find the email again even if filed.  Unimportant or read only email then Delete it.  Is it for someone else to do?  Then Delegate it and set up a To Do to follow it up.  If it is an email confirming an order you need to hand, or you don’t want to file it in your email system due to space issues then Drawer it to OneNote or Evernote.

    What is important is to keep organised so that you are not simply moving the clutter somewhere else.  For example a To Do list with incomplete tasks.  Whatever you choose has to work for you.  I have tried 5D before with some success but found that Outlook tasks didn’t work for me, as I couldn’t track them on mobile devices.  Nozbe and Toodledo were OK, but were IMO over complicated, ToDoist is multi platform, clean and simple.  Personal viewpoints as others no doubt swear by them.  With both Evernote and OneNote you can with a button on the toolbar copy an email into a memo system and then delete the original.  You need this for all the short life emails, an order confirmation, something for a meeting or discussion.  Or for filing that takes up space in your mail account.  Receipts are a good example.

    Think you haven’t time for this?  Do you have time to search for emails that you remember you need to do something about?  Do you have time for dealing with emails chasing you for something you forgot?  Do you have time to manage and prioritise everything that needs doing among the 100’s of emails filling your inbox?