Over the last few years, I’d been kidding myself that I had been practising – and maintaining – “Inbox Zero.”
And the truth is that I’d been doing most of it right. I’d turned off the automatic notifications on my email so I could choose when to fetch new mail, and I was checking and processing it all just once or twice a day in batches, leaving my brain free to concentrate on the work at hand.
The problem was that I was sticking emails that I needed to take action on into a “Follow-up” folder. This was really just a new name for my inbox. And some messages languished in there for months on end before I took any action on them.
This all changed when we started using Gmail at work (instead of Outlook). Because Gmail is browser-based, every email has its own URL, so it’s possible to access that email from anywhere (as long as you’re logged into Gmail and you have that URL, obviously).
So now I do one of two things when I process email that requires an action.
1. Take action on it straight away, if it will take less than a couple of minutes to deal with.
2. Create a new task for it in Remember the Milk. Then attach the email’s URL to the task (see pic below). Then file the email, set a priority level, and/or date for the task.
Now the email’s out of sight, and out of mind until I actually need, or decide, to deal with it. And when it does come to taking action, I can open it up straight from my task list, and reply easily if I need to.
And that’s it – no email in my inbox.
Plus, it’s not only individual emails that you can link to – if you have several emails on a specific project, set up a folder for them and link to the folder instead.