Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Email: Who is in charge here?

Merlin Mann's "inbox zero" video (warning - the video is 59 minutes, but worth the watch) is an great watch for anyone who has struggled with an overflowing email inbox and tried various things to cope with it. In conjunction with the presentation, 43 Folders has a special series looking at the skills, tools, and attitude needed to empty your email inbox.

The basic approach is simple: always empty your inbox.

His list is simple:
Delete: get rid of it (or archive it)
Delegate: get someone else to deal with it
Respond: if it takes just a few minutes, do it right now
Defer: put it on a todo list, archive it, and deal with it later
Do: handle whatever the email actually needs you to do

There are also some related posts on the website 43 Folders that give additional helpful information. (via 43 folders)

43F Series: Inbox Zero [Introduction] - “Clearly, the problem of email overload is taking a toll on all our time, productivity, and sanity, mainly because most of us lack a cohesive system for processing our messages and converting them into appropriate actions as quickly as possible.”

Inbox Zero: Articles of faith - “When I first suggested the email DMZ and said there was a way to get your inbox to zero in 20 minutes, I wasn’t lying. But I was using a definition of “empty” that may not square with your current conception of the email world. So let’s start with a few of my own articles of faith to ensure we’re on the same page going forward.”

Inbox Zero: Five sneaky email cheats - “In the words of the great Lucas Jackson: ‘Yeah, well, sometimes nothin’ can be a real cool hand.’”

Inbox Zero: Where filters will and won’t help - “[F]ocus on creating filters and scripts for any noisy, frequent, and non-urgent items which can be dealt with all at a pass and later. ”

Inbox Zero: Delete, delete, delete (or, “Fail faster”) - “Just remember that every email you read, re-read, and re-re-re-re-re-read as it sits in that big dumb pile is actually incurring mental debt on your behalf. The interest you pay on email you’re reluctant to deal with is compounded every day and, in all likelihood, it’s what’s led you to feeling like such a useless slacker today.”

Inbox Zero: Schedule email dashes - “If you can get away from being driven by email’s motor and find a way to deal with your work mindfully and on your own terms, you may be startled to see how much easier it is to keep that inbox at zero.”

Inbox Zero: What’s the action here? - “Focus on finding the fastest and straightest path from discovery to completion, and your inbox fu will be strong.”

Inbox Zero: Processing to zero - “You’ll never stay ahead of this stuff if you don’t recalibrate starting today. Give each message as much attention as it needs and not one iota more. Remember the contextuality of triage: if you keep trying to care for dead and doomed patients, you’ll end up losing a lot of the ones who could have actually used your help.”

Inbox Zero: What have you learned? - “Try to learn from what you’ve just experienced, and reapply your new wisdom to the way you treat email every day — nay, every time that little “new mail” chime sounds. You’ve just come out the other side of productivity bankruptcy and have, perhaps for the first time, a clean record and a fresh start.”

Inbox Zero: Better Practices for staying (near) zero - “As a person who has done the near-impossible and managed to establish a temporary beachhead against the occupying email army, you are your own best expert in what needs to change to keep things together, but I’d like to share a few things that have helped me stay email-sane (most of the time).”

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