For the first time in months, I saw this:
This felt so good to achieve.
If you've never experienced this, it's hard to understand -- it just feels so clean and complete. Can you imagine that being your inbox (even if you don't use an iPhone)?
Here's how I did it. As I looked at each email, one at a time, I chose what to:
Defer - If it was something I was committed to do, but would take more than 2 minutes, I created an action in my personal task management system, where I know I'll see it again when I need to.
Delete - if I decided I wasn't going to do anything with it (this is my favorite)
Do - If it was something I was committed to do and would take 2 minutes or less, I got it done right then and there
Distribute - Just a fancy word for "file," but I wanted to keep the alliteration. If I wanted to save an email, it went in a folder -- not so I could put off deciding what to do about it, but because I'd already decided what to do (and captured that thing on an action list)
Delegate - If it was something someone else needed to do, I forwarded it to them (and set a "waiting for" if I needed something back from them)
The key to achieving an empty inbox, time and time again, is to decide right up front what the thing means to you and what you're going to do about it (if anything). Don't leave it and let it keep bugging you.
(Hint: this is also the key to dealing with any kind of input in your live: phone calls, Facebook messages, online articles, interruptions, information from conversations...)
I learned these methods and ways of thinking as part of the eProductivity team. In our way of thinking (invented here), this whole thing about dealing with email would fall under "method" -- as in, you need knowledge, method, and technology, all multiplied together, to be effective and valuable at what you do. See here for more about that.
It had been a while since I'd completely emptied my email, and I'd forgotten how much of a stress-reliever it is -- like having a huge weight lifted off my mind that I didn't realize was there.
To be honest, I hope you'll follow this blog for more good stuff about living and working effectively in our information-saturated, interruption-driven, always-changing always-on world. There is a better way!
All the best,
P.S. What are your best email tips, whether for dealing with email or sending it? Tweet with the hashtag #egreement (for "email agreement," i.e. shared agreement to send and receive email responsibly, because seriously, the madness needs to stop).
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