This weekend I finally managed to get my inbox back down to zero. While I was tempted to declare “Email Bankruptcy“, the act of just selecting all and doing a mass archive- or worse- mass delete, I was able to resist. Primarily because I knew there were actionable items SOMEWHERE in that mass of well over 300 emails.
“Only 300?” you say? Yes, 300 unsorted, unprocessed emails in my inbox- read or not- causes me great anxiety. Infact, more than about 20 makes me anxious as I know something will get missed. And since we use Google Apps, this is more than 300 emails. It is really 300 CONVERSATIONS. So in reality we are talking about somewhere around 1,000 individual emails to be read and dealt with.
Some folks use their inbox as just one big holding pen and let search find what they want. I am not one of them. I try to consistently read, process, action and file emails. My inbox is kind of like an auxiliary ”to-do” list. If it is in front of me, it will grab my attention like jangling car keys in front of a baby. Hence the need for “out of sight, out of mind”.
So, once I finally decided to dedicate some time to this, how did I regain control? Simple(note: I use a google apps account. Your shortcuts may vary):
- Search out any left over emails from ZDnet, Gilbane Research, or other news feeds. Select all. Shift-#. All gone.
- We use a couple of different project management tools that send out notifications. This was the only big leap of faith. Many of these notifications do require some sort of action. Even if it is only to make sure that some assigned task was in fact, completed. With the knowledge that I can go to those individual programs and get a more updated list of action items, these too got the Shift-#. Gone.
- Now we are down to the actual conversations from real people. And we are still over 250. So, starting with the oldest first I set out labeling, archiving and filing. Why oldest first? Because they have the greatest chance of being stale and no longer requiring action. A little momentum goes a long way here.
Working my way, I gave everything one of three categories:
- Already done/Doesn’t need to be done – Label and Archive
- Needs attention and has everything with it – Gmail star and archive. This will put it in a different grouping from the inbox
- Needs attention and either doesn’t have everything with it or will spawn a more complex task requiring research. Those got transferred to a to-do list in Evernote which is probably where the rest of the needed information for them is anyway
- How Marketers Can Use Evernote to Organize and Simplify Their Lives (hubspot.com)
- Dolphin Unveils Skitch and Evernote Add-Ons for Easy Image Editing and Web Clipping [Android Downloads] (lifehacker.com)