For the past couple of months, I’ve been making my through David Allen’s book, Getting Things Done – also known as “GTD”. This book is often referred to as the ‘productivity bible’ and is chock full of everything you’ll ever need to know about how to develop productivity systems. I will do a full review of the book when I am finished reading it, but I implemented this process with my email a few weeks and couldn’t wait to share my thoughts on it.
So what is Email Inbox Zero?
Simply put, working from a state of Inbox Zero just means processing email as it arrives (or within the day). If you are like me – pre-GTD – you may not be totally familiar with the concept of “processing”…at least not as it relates to handling email. In short, this just means deciding whether an email requires action, contains information that needs to be filed away some where, requires more information prior to acting upon, or is trash. Then, once you’ve decided on which category a given email falls into, you organize it in its proper place – which is NOT your inbox.
I don’t know about you, but my personal email has been out of control for quite some time. This was the result of years of subscribing to any email list that remotely seemed interesting. A couple of years back, I tried to get a handle on it but un-subscribing to a bunch of lists and creating folders and setting up some auto-filtering rules before emails even hit my inbox (I found this particularly useful for retail emails that often had me purchasing things I didn’t need all because it was on FLASH SALE – TODAY ONLY!). But, over time things got right back to being unmanageable. Last year, I started using Unroll.me, which is a great way to consolidate a lot of email into one summary email that you receive daily. While these two strategies did help, I still had thousands of email in my inbox at any given time and that digital clutter was starting to become a real nuisance.
Why I Love Email Inbox Zero
Peace of Mind
Just like having a cluttered home or office can impact stress levels, so can digital clutter. I was beginning to feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of email in my inbox. Pages and pages of email, with no clear way of determining what was important and what was junk, what needed to be acted upon and what needed to be filed away for reference later. Now I put email in its appropriate place on the day that I receive it. Don’t feel like you have the time to “deal” with all of your email each day? I promise you there is a way – just keep reading!
Do you ever log into your email with one thing in mind, and then get distracted by the plethora of other messages vying for your attention? Before you know it, you’ve read some messages and responded to others, and then 30 minutes later you realize that you didn’t actually get to the email that you intended to act upon (or more likely, you can’t even remember what you had intended to do when you opened your email). This doesn’t happen with Email Inbox Zero because you have already organized your email in way that you know exactly where to go to find the emails that need your attention.
Once I did a clean sweep on my email and started processing them on the day that I receive them (save for the emails that come in during the evening after I’ve disconnected from the digital world for the day), I found that I was able to be much more productive with my time on email. Instead of spending time wading through emails attempting to find the ones that mattered, I am now able to get right to the emails that need to be handled – and handle them. My response time has increased because emails no longer get “lost” or buried on page 2 or 3 under other emails that have come in.
How To Implement It
- Conduct a clean sweep of your inbox – delete messages you don’t need, file any that need to be saved in a folder
- Create a “Needs Action” and “Waiting For folder”
- Move emails that require action to the Needs Action folder and move emails that require more information or someone else to act go in the Waiting For folder
- Deal with the emails in your Needs Action folder and Waiting For folders (it is helpful to schedule this time)
- Repeat steps 3 and 4
I am only a few weeks in, but I am truly sold on this concept!