Inbox Zero: Inbox Down to 50


In June I started getting serious about managing my email, using the "Inbox Zero" system promulgated by productivity guy Merlin Mann. When I started, my inbox contained 222 messages and I battled with it daily, often seeing it balloon into the 300-400 email range. Two weeks into the project, I was at 100. Now I'm down to 50, and am slowly reaching for that wonderful number: zero.

Merlin Mann recently gave a Google Tech Talk last week all about Inbox Zero, and it's worth a look. In it, Merlin talks through his system, demonstrating how (and why) you can develop your own email system. I've seen some comments on my previous entries asking why having such a system is important -- I think Merlin explains that here. The folks at Google are getting 500+ messages a day, some of which are critically important -- how do you find those needles in such an ever-growing haystack? I've been there, and it's important to have a realistic way to deal with that volume of stuff. Now, the system doesn't need to be complex or all-encompassing, but it does need to help you focus on the important stuff (spending your precious time and attention on it), and allow you to quickly remove everything else.

More, including an excellent video, after the jump.

This video is in many ways better than the articles, largely because Merlin's just a funny guy (though he does give the Google folks a hard time about on-campus laundry service). Here's the video:

Back in my world, I've gotten better at doing dashes -- spending focused time processing the inbox to remove items. I've also gotten better at doing the two-minute reply -- spending the time right now to resolve something if it can be done in two minutes or less. Finally, one of Merlin's best kung fu moves is requesting more information -- if an email doesn't contain a clearly actionable request, simply asking a question (and then filing the email away, out of the inbox) gets me closer to something I can work with. I hope to arrive at the real Zero number in my inbox in, oh, maybe a month or two. Perhaps I'll give myself coffee and a banana-nut muffin when I get there.