My favorite formal session of Inman Real Estate Connect last week was the keynote address. Merlin Mann of 43Folders.com discussed “Inbox Zero” — action based email management and a system to curb the problem of email overload.
As I sat in the presentation, reviewing email on my blackberry at the same time, about all I could think of was, “Inbox zero, are you effing kidding me? I’m more like Inbox 8,000!” (turns out I was pretty close as evidenced in the screen snip above, taken straight from my email client this morning.)
Oh I’ve tried. I set up several dozen archive folders once. The plan was to have this detailed filing system so I could always find any email ever sent.
That didn’t work.
Just Do It
Today I set out to implement some of Mann’s Inbox Zero approach. What I’ve found so far is that it’s not so much a system as an attitude.
With apologies to Mr. Mann, in a nutshell Inbox Zero focuses on the five (and only five) things you can do with email:
And that I did. Here it is, about 12 hours later (minus time to go buy and install a new battery for the Jeep and keyboard for the desktop) and I am finally at a point where I can claim success.
The real test comes over the next days, weeks and months.
But I’m committed.
Inbox Zero (well, 4 actually)
Here is what the inbox looks like now:
From 8,907 emails in my inbox to 4 (and those 4 all arrived while I was writing this. Inbox Zero practices tell me, “Don’t rush over there to check those!”)
Note the increase in Templates from 1 to 16. I wrote “canned answers” to questions we commonly get that can be answered in a generic fashion — typically with a link or two to old blog posts and minimal text. Now when one of these 16 questions come in, I can go to the template, address and send it and DELETE the original email.
This is a beautiful thing. Why did I wait so long?
There’s more work to do, particularly wading through almost three years of archived email. I think to tackle that task, I’m just going to dump the archives on a CD and then delete them all. That will feel good. I honestly can’t remember the last time I dug into them. But I just can’t quite let go (yet) that I may need something there some day.
For More Info
For details on Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero, see these links:
Inbox Zero: Action Based Email – a great overview, links out to the series.
And here is link to an Inbox Zero talk Merlin did at Google. It’s an hour long, but worth a listen…
If you feel overwhelmed by email (and you know you do) you owe it to yourself to read through Merlin’s writings, or watch the video (and really, you can pretty much just listen).
Do it. Do it now.