After watching an excellent presentation on how to manage email and keep the inbox at zero at LifeHacker I’ve decided to try and follow the advice.

The idea is called action based action based email and Merlin Mann, the originator of the concept, suggests that one should never just check email. You have to act, never just check. He makes a very good comparison with a friend asking you to check upon his cat, while he’s on vacation. You check every day and suddenly the cat is sick and the idea is not that you check back the next day to see if it got better. You have to take action, to do something about the cats problem, which is why you’re checking in the first place.

The same thing with email. It floods your inbox, you live your life in the inbox, always feeling guilty if you don’t TAKE ACTION.
So he defines 5 different actions to take with the email when you read it:
- delete/archive
- delegate (and remember to followup)
- respond (short and precise)
- defer (till later the same day)
- do

Never let anything just lay there in the inbox. He suggests that you always process to zero, when checking email, and also that the email program should not be on all the times.

It might sound basic, but at least my own experience is that it’s hard to follow. But I’ve set it as my goal now, and at least these first three days are going good. I’ve been able to process the last two months of email, so now I’ve only got like 2900 emails left in my inbox :)

Actually I’ve been terrible to respond and keep contact with my friends, so I really want to keep this and be able to get back quicker and not feel like I’m a jerk with people I really care about.

Well, I’ll keep you updated on how it goes.


Btw, if you want it in writing and with more details, the Inbox Zero idea is described more in depth in a series of articles you can read here.