Processing to Zero

No connection to 43 Things (other than the two sites time-sharing a prime number): 43 Folders (oh yeah, about the name) features heaps of genuinely useful articles and tips on time and stress management. That’s not a topic I generally consider an interest, but I’ve been on an approach to zero-message inbox nirvana for several months now, and it’s just amazing what a difference it makes in overall stress levels. Leaving work with nothing in the inbox makes you feel in control, less overwhelmed. Like you own the job, rather than the other way around.

Like Kirk’s “solution” to the Kobayashi Maru Scenario, there’s an easy but non-obvious way to win at this Catch-22: you cheat. You don’t answer them all. Not even most of them. You rewrite the rules. You adapt at a higher level. You have to, or else the Klingons will overwhelm you with their superior fire power and brute force — and then your email would remain unanswered for eternity. Think how sad that would be.

Other useful stuff: Building a better to-do list, learning how to write email messages that respect the recipient’s workflow, running dashes for quick productivity bursts.

Music: Joan Armatrading :: Down to Zero

5 thoughts on “Processing to Zero

  1. Sean Graham

    I am astoundingly good at keeping a (near) zero item inbox… As of right now, I have but a few items in my inboxes..

    In my personal inbox, other than today’s mail (which will sit there until I can get home and file it accordingly in archive folders) I have 4 messages. one a link to a video I keep forgetting to watch, 2 “reminder” emails of things I need to take care of in the near future, but can’t be acted on yet, and one message that I actually need to respond to.

    In my work inbox, I have 3 messages. One is a “visit this link” email from a coworker that has been there for awhile, but is not work related, One “reminder” email as above (in fact, it is the same as one of the “reminder” messages in my personal account), and one actual actionable message that I just don’t feel like dealing with for awhile (my yearly self-evaluation nonsense)…

    I have coworkers who have tens or even hundreds of message in their inbox, and I haven’t seen anything like that in my own inbox in years… I try to be very diligent in keeping my inbox clean and also paying attention to the messages I choose to leave in there to make sure they aren’t becoming a problem…

  2. Dan

    Hmm, I just decided to check my inbox. Bad move. 10,000 items (earliest is from 2001). I thought perhaps this was an approximation but apparently not – I deleted one and it read 9,999 items. What a coincidence!

    Most of it is (obviously) not stuff that requires an action, but I really ought to clean it out some time. Only problem is, with that many emails, it will take me a week just to look at them all.

    43 Folders, here I come. (I bought David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” last year. Managed to read it, but still haven’t got around to doing any of the things suggested ;-)

  3. shacker Post author

    10,000 emails in your inbox? Dang – I expect that from our faculty, but not from fellow geeks!

    I feel crushed when the inbox count goes over 100 or so.

  4. Dan

    To be honest, I used to meticulously file everything from my inbox into specific folders, but then the inbox started getting on top of me and, shortly afterwards, I discovered LookOut for OutLook, an incredible search tool, which meant that I could find old emails wherever they were filed, so I stopped bothering with moving most stuff and left pretty much everything in my inbox.

    It would be nice to have it clean though. One day.

  5. Jason Liske

    I have a folder for every client, and most of the emails that come in find their way to the project folder at the end of every day. My to do list is KING, so when I need to reference any emails based on something on my list, they are easy to find. This lets me leave tasks in my inbox during the day for quick updates.

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