Doubtlessly a lot of people are entering the New Year with some vow to do a better job managing their inbox. I know some very meticulous people who refuse to end the day with an email lingering in their inbox, I know some people who use their inbox as a historical archive of everything from spam to hot action items.
I work for an organization that caps inbox capacity and sends warnings to disable functions if my mail file isn’t cleared out below a half-gig limit. There are various Lotus Notes utilities for archiving and saving attachments, but the entire inbox management thing is stressful, the source of a lot of corrosive anxiety on my part about mails unanswered and space limits exceeded.
One habit I have been using for the past few months is to declare flying time the period when I go in and manage my inbox. I have attempted to use subfolders to sort mails, have wrestled with various organization rules to automate that sorting, but in the end I just go through a process of quickly previewing old mails, and making a quick David Allen – Getting Things Done decision to delete, reply or delegate as opposed to sort and store.
I set Notes on “Island” or disconnected mode and start weeding through the file, replying to mails that need replys, forwarding others to delegate, and deleting the rest. When I land, I make my connection, switch to online mode, replicate, and voila, have a “clean” inbox.
Yet it never feels clean.
I have yet to get the courage that I once heard Guy Kawasaki claim when he told me that deleted his whole inbox every now and then with a simple block select and delete combo. His feeling was if there was something truly important or life threatening in the past, it would come back to haunt him.
I wish I had that courage as I get close to today’s date. Even in weeding down from 1000 to 300, I see that a ton are still sitting there, records of important stuff that I need to transfer out of Notes into a better archive. I have been blocksaving out of Notes into OneNote, but that doesn’t feel right either.
What’s your trick? How do you cope? Are you an inbox slob or an inbox anal-retentive?
Merlin Mann at 43 Folders has written the FAQ on what he calls “Inbox Zero”