Today, after several years of drowning in email, I got my inbox to zero. Yup. There’s nothing in there. Gmail is clear.
That doesn’t mean I have no email – I have used 11 per cent of my allocated 10.1 GB. There’s just nothing sitting in the inbox.
This is the most liberated feeling I’ve had in a long long time. It should be a prescribed remedy for stress. But I digress. Having read most of David Allen’s Getting Things Done, and Oliver Burkeman‘s Help, and lots of other Lifehacker-type things, I think these are the six essential things you need to know. (I’ve been bloody terrible at sticking to it, but it’s the only way to go.)
- Your inbox is not a good list. Why? Other people can write on it. So get a separate list you control. I love Remember The Milk, but there are tons out there. Find something that works, and stick to it. This, not email, should be your guide. Email becomes a tool, rather than the master.
- Get good folders / labels for your email. Use characters like “@” or “.” or numbers in front of label names to prioritise.
- The 4 Ds are a useful thing to remember: with every email (or bit of paper for that matter) you can (and should) do one of: do it; delegate it; defer it; delete it.
- If you aren’t sure whether something is important, just archive it. If it is, you’ll get some reminder along the way.
- If you are swamped with too much email, make it a game. It really helps. You are fooling your brain into making it fun, but so what? Get a timer, set a target, and see how much you can get rid of.
- Put fun things on your to-do list. It shouldn’t all be grind.
That’s it. Don’t you feel better already?