I suggested in another post that you go away to a desert island for a week and come back to face the barbarian horde that is your weekly email delivery.
Add this horde to the mass of missives that you already have kept, and soon your inbox is so big that it is actually slowing your computer down.
The instinctive answer to this is to delete all the mail on the basis that any important ones will probably get sent again.
I do believe that this approach has its merits, but some of the downsides can be severe – all of my bosses would have taken a dim view of it for a start.
The accepted measure to demonstrate one’s brilliance and mastery of email is “inbox zero”.
Inbox zero is what it sounds like, it is the state of having an empty inbox.
When you assess the inbox is up to you, but the aim is to have a time each day where you reach the point that your inbox is completely empty.
A point where every piece of correspondence that has been sent to you has been ‘actioned’.
This approach is often credited to David Allen.
I admit to being amazed the Irish TV wit who sat on a stool, cigarette in hand making people laugh in the 70s and 80s had time to write books on productivity.
Turns out to be a different Dave Allen.
This one designed the Get Things Done (GTD) approach to productivity.
The theory is that I look at my Inbox and act on every mail.
I reply, delegate, delete or schedule. Each choice moves the message out of the inbox.
GTD is alarmingly trendy.
But that notwithstanding, there is something to it. If you feel that you are working for email rather than the other way around, have a look at “Get Things Done”.
I am now pretty much perpetually at Inbox zero.
1. I use Gmail. In my experience, Google have been the most competent provider at keeping spam out of my inbox.
2. I use Gmail. When in doubt, don’t delete – archive. That way, you can always find the mail with a google search of your ‘All Mail’ folder.
It works. It makes the decision making process faster. Knowing that if I ditch a mail too hastily, I can recover it simply and easily.
3. Once at my desk, I take a few minutes to unsubscribe from email lists.
4. I manage mail from all my devices. I can therefore triage my inbox from anywhere.
Waiting for a meeting/bus/coffee? Whip the phone out, and go through the inbox…delete, archive, delete, snooze, reply, add to list and so on. I use a client called Mailbox that gives me these options.
I might not get through the whole inbox in one go – but through the day, I will have dealt with most unimportant email during spare minutes.
5. Turn notifications off. I look at email when I want to. I am not at its command. We all have enough to do without responding to beeps and whistles.
Are you the boss of your Inbox?