a cesspool of interwebness

Empty Inbox Every Night

Posted by Kyro Sk On 2009-04-22 2 comments

After fighting with a corporate inbox chock full of junk (500+ messages) all the time, I've come to the conclusion that the only useful inbox is an empty inbox*. So, I took the bold move yesterday of archiving everything in my inbox to a local trash, and clearing my todo list.

The thinking is this: if any of those items are super critical, I'll get pinged again. If any of those items were actually no-ops or low priority, then they shouldn't be competing for my time with the other stuff that is higher priority.

This all works fine as long as the inbox does not get out of control again. To that end, I've decided to implement a personal policy that my inbox MUST be totally empty when I leave the office each night**.

For EVERY inbox item:
1) Is this high priority? Does it need to be dealt with immediately? FLAG IT AS RED, immediately take action to complete it. If I can't complete it by the end of the day preserve the message in my HIGH PRIORITY folder.
2) Is this informational or of medium to long term consideration? Immediately archive it using the appropriate mechanism (sometimes, this will be the trash). If a follow-up item is needed, immediately schedule it.
3) Is it irrelevant? Immediately delete such messages after reading.

Rules of Thumb***
- don't let messages sit unread, process them all when they arrive
- keep the items todo well organized, clear them when they complete, review regularly
- respect the awesomeness of the empty inbox
- be ruthless about deleting the chaff
- if I can't keep up to my inbox, it means I might need help, monitor this and inform my immediate report that the workload might be too high

A valid question here is: why the hell is Kyro bothering to write about this? I'm glad you asked. The answer, is that it is much easier to make a habit out of something that you write down. Now I can refer back to this and refine my process, to hone the skill of effective email communcation management.

Anybody else out there in big corporate email land have tips for fighting the ever growing inbox?

* unless we're talking about your gmail inbox, in which case, it's best to just leave everything where it is and use the searching...
** or if a few build up during the week, I must at least have it sorted by Friday before I leave my desk
*** and no, that has nothing to do with a stick the width of your thumb that you can use to beat... that's just urban myth