What tips and tricks do you use to get to inbox zero?

MarcoDuan

Registered
I found that I take a lot of time to get to inbox zero. So I am curious to know if you guys have tips and tricks that help you or have helped you to get into the habit of cleaning out frequently and effectively.
 

TesTeq

Registered
I found that I take a lot of time to get to inbox zero. So I am curious to know if you guys have tips and tricks that help you or have helped you to get into the habit of cleaning out frequently and effectively.
1. When I send less emails I receive less emails.
2. I love deleting.
 

ivanjay205

Registered
I found that I take a lot of time to get to inbox zero. So I am curious to know if you guys have tips and tricks that help you or have helped you to get into the habit of cleaning out frequently and effectively.
I am a huge fan of inbox zero and was even before starting with GTD. I really do follow it closely and although it does happen I rarely get far away from inbox zero. Here are my tips:

  • I learned that I needed to get comfortable with inbox zero"ish". I say this because I use to obsess over it and result was I chased my email and other inputs. In today's world no one stops responding ever. So I learned that just because I got a few responses at 5:30 as I close my day means I could pretend I didnt and leave them, they are new and fresh. Or I would chase my tail.
  • I also bought a plugin for Outlook called Boomerang. It allows me to delay send email even when my computer is not on. So when I want to close down for the day on email I delay send my emails for the next day unless they were due "today" which prevents the responses from coming back, but I have checked that box of responding on my end.
  • I have two routines in my GTD system as calendar items. As a COO my day starts very early, around 5:15-5:30 AM and it starts with my morning routine of a morning cup of coffee, catch up on any news, social media, clarify all of my captured items, review my calendar, and priority items for the day. Once that is done I do a fresh sort of my email (last) so that I can capture any new things that have come in. I do not clarify them unless they are very important and if they are regardless of the 2 min drill I do them at that time since it is well pre-work hours for most. This enables me to have clear focus on the day.
  • At 5 PM I start my workday shutdown routine which is comprised of the same thing as my routine in the morning. I first clarify everything in my captured inbox from throughout the day (and the morning session). I process email but again try to delay send emails so they don't come back to me, clear of my desk, my post its, etc. This is my sacred time and I have different a culture in the office where people know this is not come see me at the tail end of the day time. Of course I will always welcome something critical that needs my attention, but it is some disciplined time for me.
  • If I am ever traveling or really far behind on my email I do what I call an email triage where I commit to not responding to anything unless super short and really just sort out stuff and get it into my inbox to deal with later. I have a Pending folder in Outlook to hold the original email so when I can respond based on my Next Action I have the email available. I set outlook to show the count of read and unread emails in there so I dont lose sight of them.
I have personally started the 5 PM workday shutdown routine within the last year after reading from Michael Hyatt's system. Althought not GTD there is a lot of cross over. THat has been critical in me being able to come home and "shutdown" work primarily focus on my family. I view that as an extension of inbox zero because my focus is not on my inputs.

Hope that helps!
 

Oogiem

Registered
So I am curious to know if you guys have tips and tricks that help you or have helped you to get into the habit of cleaning out frequently and effectively.
I've spent the past several months nowhere near inbox zero on e-mails. I really needed to get back to it so what I did was work on my systems.

The problem was that having waiting for and action support folders in my e-mail were just places to dump stuff and avoid fully processing it. So I revamped how I handle email. Now my action support folder is ONLY for comments and responses to SW bugs I have reported.

When I process email I make sure that I fully decide what I have to do at that time with each message. I start at the top and process each one individually.

If I can, I read it and delete it, my daily email comics for example, the obvious spam or info I can read but do not need to keep then I do that and delete the message. While I have a spam checker system in place I routinely get good messages flagged as spam per week, usually 1-2 per day, no matter how I train it. Since they come from unknown senders a white list won't work. So I have to review everything that comes in, all 250-500 or so messages a day. My email inputs vary widely with no observable schedule.

If it's something to be reminded of at a future time I move a copy of the message to my digital tickler system in DEVONThink. The reason for the copy is that then in the tickler I can just delete the message once I've handled it but leave my email archive intact. I then file the original in my Reference folder in my mail system. I archive most of my email and I still refer to messages that are decades old.

If it's an ad or news item I have finely tuned email rules that sort it out to a folder called Misc ads and news. At my weekly review time I go through that folder and clean it out. Ads are only useful when I need to buy something. I don't want to turn off the notices but I also don't really care about them 80% of the time. The discounts are worth it when I do use them so I also don't want to stop those messages so I made it easier to handle them in bulk once a week. News may be important or not, if I have time or am intersted I may look at the new but it's not a priority for me to check it daily.

On-line order confirmations go into an Order Info folder. When the item arrives they get moved into an Order Rcvd folder. I check Order Info monthly to clean out anything old and verify it. We get a lot of computer parts, boards and other stuff direct from China as part of my husband's computer consulting business. Those things can take a month or more to arrive but we need to track them and verify when they come in so I need them separate for quick review.

Messages that are people buying items from our on-line store I have to go pull and pack get printed out and then moved into a folder for reference. I print them so I have a copy I can use as a pull sheet over in the shop and ship as a packing list. The paper then goes over by the door so next time I go out I can pick up all of them and go pull the wool orders and prepare them for shipping.

Anything that I can easily respond to I do. The 2 minute rule. Although if I am honest I tend to stretch it to abut 5 minutes because otherwise that stuff builds up.

The remainder are usually things that relate to current active projects. Those also get copied into my DEVONThink folder for that project. I use DT as my project support material holder. The original is filed in Reference. I also add the actions or make a note of that in my task manager, Omnifocus, in that project or the action it relates to so I know there is digital action support material I may need to reference. Again it often takes 2-5 minutes to process each actionable message fully.

I also plan on enough time each day to handle email. For me I spend 1-2 hours a day clearing out my inboxes. Paper goes fairly fast so much of that time is spent handling either voicemail or email. If I run short then I make sure to plan more time within a day or 2 to catch up. Just this past week on Thursday for some reason my email was overflowing and it took a full 2.25 hours just to clear it all out. Fortunately the paper inbox was very small and I had no voicemail so while it was a longer day than normal I was still able to get it done.

We were both sick recently and this system was still easy to keep going, the gold standard for GTD practice. If a procedure or system is too hard to manage when you are sick then it's not going to work for you long term.
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
Establishing a habit is just that. First you fight to establish the habit, then you just do the thing habitually. So, trick #1 is getting to zero daily.

Trick #2 is to not participate in those "everybody puts evrybody into cc:"-discussions. I just archive those. Let's be frank here: over 90% is just people procratinating together. Let em.

Number three would be to write short emails. Very short. Just the two sentences that are really needed. This goes together with what @TesTeq said: do I even have to write this email? My own experience is that emails tend to drag things out, a phone call that clears up everything is often much better.

Which means: trick #3 is get good at making phone calls.

Number four is something where I probably go against the grain of this forum, but I just archive everything. I have the classic "to reply" folder, but other than that I don't organize email. If I need stuff from an email, I copy it over into proper project support and archive that email.

(Unless you work in a hostile, nitpicking work environment, there is no point in "proving" anything to anybody. What happens if you "win"? (And as the GTDer you will win…) Now you just cornered somebody else and the vast majority of people react by fighting back. That leads to nowhere.)

Number five is to have smart folders for newsletters and other subscription. I just archive all subs and only read them when I decided to do so based on my @reading list or another process _outside_ of email.
 

RS356

Practicing GTD since 2005
This is one area where time-blocking is most effective for me. Each day, I’ll reserve enough time to process my inboxes. I know that each item will take no longer than 2 minutes. In a typical week, I need about 1.5 hours per day. I’ll often plan for 2 minutes per item, and use the time left over to complete a few important next actions.

By default, all of my personal mail is delivered through my Gmail account. Mail from important contacts is forwarded to another account, which I will check frequently. The Gmail account is checked only several times per week. Much of the unimportant mail is not actionable and I am able to quickly process them.
 

ivanjay205

Registered
Establishing a habit is just that. First you fight to establish the habit, then you just do the thing habitually. So, trick #1 is getting to zero daily.

Trick #2 is to not participate in those "everybody puts evrybody into cc:"-discussions. I just archive those. Let's be frank here: over 90% is just people procratinating together. Let em.

Number three would be to write short emails. Very short. Just the two sentences that are really needed. This goes together with what @TesTeq said: do I even have to write this email? My own experience is that emails tend to drag things out, a phone call that clears up everything is often much better.

Which means: trick #3 is get good at making phone calls.

Number four is something where I probably go against the grain of this forum, but I just archive everything. I have the classic "to reply" folder, but other than that I don't organize email. If I need stuff from an email, I copy it over into proper project support and archive that email.

(Unless you work in a hostile, nitpicking work environment, there is no point in "proving" anything to anybody. What happens if you "win"? (And as the GTDer you will win…) Now you just cornered somebody else and the vast majority of people react by fighting back. That leads to nowhere.)

Number five is to have smart folders for newsletters and other subscription. I just archive all subs and only read them when I decided to do so based on my @reading list or another process _outside_ of email.
I just want to echo this thought. I find email so dangerous which is why I do not use email as any part of my system. So easy to get distracted plus conversations via email are productivity killers.
 

DAH

Registered
This is what I do:
  • Delete all advertisement e-mails (and either unsubscribe immediately or relocate to your inbox (the place where you collect all other stuff), don't leave it in your mail inbox.
  • Only quick scan cc's (they are just for me to read, but if there are actions in it, they're not for me anyway). After 'scanning' them, archive.
  • All other mail, directed to me, I read. If there are possible actions in there I relocate the mail to inbox (not the mail inbox) for later processing. Depending on platform/OS, I then archive the mail.
I've got absolutely only one inbox, and my mail inbox isn't it.

ps. My mail client contains only standard issue folders (Inbox, Send, Trash, Spam, etc.) and when not provided by mail client one more folder; Archive. Every mail that I might need for later reference goes into archive. Nowadays, you can easily search for mails.

pps. I use the Apple ecosystem. So, basically, when a mail contains possible actions I add to Reminders (with iOS 13, you can easily 'share' it to Reminders by selecting a bit of text and tap share) and then archive the mail. Reminders will fetch the mail when needed, even when archived. I used to use Things 3. I simply send a mail to the custom Things 3 Cloud mail address and *pling*... the mail with possible actions is in my Inbox. I then, again, archive the mail. By the end of the day my mail inbox is to zero.

ppss. When you cannot 'relocate' a mail, like in the Apple ecosystem, just print/save as pdf, and then place in your inbox.
 
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