My method to keep my inbox empty

Every day, 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 pieces of information.

I think that I've found THE method that works (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 for an action from someone else

3 - Done : emails processed, kept for archive.

An extra folder "Gmail view" is there to get 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 see why after).

2 - Process your Inbox

Everything starts with the 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 reading email as they come. I've noticed that if I read emails as they come, I lose what I'm currently doing, and jump from a topic to another, losing 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 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 the email, but I need to read it more carefully (presentations, communications, ...), I move it to "read/review folder"

e) finally, if the email does 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 (every Friday 12:30 to 2 pm)

I review the "waiting-for" folder during the one-to-one meetings I've 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 a specific session to review them.

4 - Conclusion: Why I feel so good about this system?

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a) the emails are sorted according to what I need to do with them.

Previously, I tried to do it using "read/unread" and "flags", but it wasn't efficient.

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**b) all the emails I've processed are not anymore in my view. **

They are in "done" folder that I seldom open. I'm not disturbed by them.

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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 folder.

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d) coming to work in the morning with an email with few emails (just the one from the night, as I work with a 24x7 organization) is very healthy.

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

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