Thursday, July 26, 2007

Inbox Zero

Merlin Mann of 43Folders fame has a philosophy called Inbox zero. He gave this talk at the Google campus in July 2007. It's worth a listen, but if you don't have time, his advice boils down to dealing with your inbox everyday. Every mail gets one of 5 things done to it:
  1. Delete (or Archive) - Don't spend a lot of time on building archive folders. Use built-in search capabilities to find things
  2. Delegate (Forward to someone else)
  3. Respond (keep it short) - Appropriate response length is good. My comment is to put important content into the subject.
  4. Defer (Put into a pending folder) - something that you check periodically to see if it has resolved. I use flags in Outlook to keep track of my deferred actions
  5. Do or capture a placeholder for it (such as a calendar or a task)

General principles:
Do email less (unless of course your job is real-time)
Do email on a schedule. Turn off mail arrival signals, then once per hour process it using the above five actions. Go back to work.
Filter junk email (especially spam, but also those non-critical listserv notes, etc.)
Don't fiddle - focus on getting your stuff done, not playing with your email organization

Take this advice and be productive.