Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mastering email: Empty your inbox

Does your inbox contain zero unread messages and yet you feel like you need to check some of your mails because you're sure there's still some action required on some of them? Wasn't there a request for a reply and you thought "I'll reply later"? You don't know exactly who wanted a reply for what, and so you start to read all your mails of the last days again...

That was a problem for me for a long time. It was even more complicated because I filtered all mails and ordered them in around 20 different folders. Where to start looking? Spotlight really saved my life :)

And then, I saw Merlin Mann's video on how to empty your inbox, Inbox Zero (direct link to video). Immediately after the video, I started to reorganize my mail. Reorganizing isn't exactly the right word, it's more like "un-organizing". It turned out that all my fancy folders sorted my mails, but didn't really help me to handle email efficiently.

Now, I've got a very minimal setup, compared to my inbox before Inbox Zero. Every time I check my mail the inbox gets emptied, no matter how many mails I've got. Mails that need some processing later on or are otherwise worth keeping, are moved into one big "Archive" folder. All actions that need to be done with those mails get an entry on my todo list. Mails that don't need any action, and don't contain anything useful for the future are deleted right away.

Sent mails that I might need in the future, are sent bcc to myself, and automatically moved into the archive. I regularly empty my "Sent Items" folder. No need to keep every single mail you've ever sent...

Email is no longer one big mess, but got a great productive tool I enjoy using. If you find yourself searching your inbox all over again, you should definitely have a look at this video. If you don't have that much bandwidth, there's also an audio version.

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