Thursday, February 23, 2006

Away with the overflowing inbox!

How do you feel when you look at your email inbox?  Many of us would say we feel vaugely sick.  Most everyone gets more email than they ever want to see and many are driven by it.  They are always waiting for the next email to arrive so that they know what to do.  That’s a terrible way to live, frankly and isn’t very productive.  It makes you reactive instead of proactive and the weight of undealt with emails is a tremendous mental drain.  So what do you do with all those emails sitting in your inbox?  I would suggest you come up with a system that keeps your inbox empty of ALL mail.  I don’t get that many emails in comparison with most, maybe 20-40 a day (not counting spam).  But unless you get well over 200 hundred a day, it is possible to keep your inbox empty and your head clear.  It is possible to refuse to allow your inbox to drive your day.  Read each email one time and then process it.  Here’s how…


Julie Daniel, a staff coach for the Getting Things Done organization offers us six different types of emails and what to do with them.  I’ll list them as they were summarized here at What’s the Next Action.


  • Email you've read and there’s no action associated with it and you don’t need to keep it for reference. So delete it!
  • Email you've read and there's no action associated with it right now but perhaps on a later date. So incubate it or file it!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action but you are not sure what the action is. So incubate it or defer it!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action and you know what the action is but you haven't come around to doing it. So put it on a Next Action list in the appropriate context!
  • Email you've read and decided there is an action and you actually did the action. But now you are waiting on some sort of reply from someone or they need to track the outcome of that action. So put it on a "Waiting For" list!
  • Email you haven't read yet. Those are the only emails that should be in your Inbox!


If you do this you’ll relax more, drop fewer balls and feel more in control of your life and, especially, your inbox.

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