There’s an e-mail concept called Inbox Zero, the term was coined by a guy named Merlin Mann who is somewhat of an expert in practical GTD (getting things done) and generally improving how you work. Or at least how I work. He has a website called 43folders where you can find some good posts and information. Anyhow, he recently gave a presentation at Google which made it as a Google Tech Talk, on Inbox Zero. If you can spare an hour to watch and listen I think you’ll more than make up that hour if you apply some of the tactics he brings up in the talk.
I’ve generally already been pretty good about keeping my inbox slimmed down if not empty, but after watching this talk I managed to delete over 5,000 messages and delete or consolidate about 7 folders. I particularly like the concept of e-mail processing verbs:
Which make a lot of sense to me. And if you mesh this with a GTD task tool, like iGTD, any defered tasks or actions can get sucked up into your GTD tool-where they belong, and out of your inbox.
I also like the idea of applying these same principles (check less frequently, process immediately, process using these five verbs, etc…) to things like normal mail. There is nothing in my USPS mailbox which can’t wait a day or a few days (if it was that urgent, it would never have been mailed), therefore it would be better to check it less often, and be dedicated to fully processing all the mail when I do check it. Having a stack of bills sitting on the counter doesn’t do my stress level any good.