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My method to keep my inbox empty

Everyday, I receive around 50-100 emails in my inbox. 

Since years, I’m looking for a good method to stay organized, and not be overloaded by all these incoming informations.
I think that I’ve found THE method that work (at least for me).
This method is a concrete implementation of Getting things done, the method from David Allen.
Here are the few 3 steps to implement it.
1 – Configure your email system
Currently I’m using Microsoft outlook, but the setup can be done with every email system.
I use 5 folders :
0 – Inbox : where all email comes when I receive them
1 – Action : email for which an action from me is needed
1 – Read / Review : emails that with stuff I need to read / review
2 – Waiting for : emails for which I’m waiting an action from someone else
3 – Done : emails processed, keeped for archive.
An extra folder “Gmail view” is there to in outlook the nice looking “conversation view” of gmail. You don’t need it if you ‘re already in gmail.
The numbers shown after the folder name are the number of items in the folder (not the unread items, I do not care anymore about read/ unread, you’ll se why after).
2 – Process your Inbox
Everything start from inbox. When emails are received, they go there.
I process my inbox at least 2 times per day : on time in the morning, before lunch and another before leaving.
I avoid to read email as they come. I’ve noticed that if I read emails as they come, I loose what I’m currently doing, and jump from a topic to another, loosing efficiency.
The inbox folder is sorted by “from” field.
The processing steps are the following :
a) open email and read it
b) if I can answer to the email immediately (less than 2 minutes according to GTD standards), I do it, and I move the email to “done” folder
c) if I need to answer to the email, but cannot do it immediately, because the task needs more time to be achieved, I ask myself if someone in my team can do it for me
 – if yes, I forward the email to him/her, I move the original email in “done” folder, I move the email sent in the “waiting-for” folder
– if no, I’ll have to do it myself, I move the email to the “Action” folder.
d) if I do not need to answer to the email, but I need to read it more carefully (presentations, communications, …), I move it to “read/review folder”
e) finally, if the email do not trigger any action, I move it to “done” folder.
3 – Process “action”, “read/review” and “waiting-for” folders.
Once a week I do a full, complete review of these folders during my GTD weekly review (very Friday 12:30 to 2pm)
I review the “waiting-for” folder during the one-to-one meetings I’ve have with my team members.
I process action and read/review when I’ve time (using GTD principles).
If I see that action and read/review folder are getting too full, I plan in my agenda for specific session to review them.
3 – Conclusion : Why I feel so good with this system ?

a) the emails are sorted accorded to what I need to do with them.
Previously, I tried to do it using “read/unread” and “flags”, but it wasn’t efficient.

b) all the emails I’ve processed are not anymore under my view. 
They are in “done” folder that I seldom open. I’m not disturbed by them.

c) The kpis to know if I’m under control or not are built-in.
I just look at the number of items in each folders.

d) coming at work in the morning with an email with few emails (just the one from the night, as I work with a 24×7 organisation) is very healthy.

I let you try it, and let me know what you think about it.
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5 Comments

  • Manu |

    Interesting.

    I'll apply your method when i'll be back to office.

    Manu

  • Las Vegas Wil |

    Awesome, simple, easy system. Very nice. Mine is very similar, but the Waiting box was too stressful so I send those to FollowUpThen. Doesn't take away from this great streamlined system. Well done, sir.