[SiH] Feature Article: The Inbox Zero Crusade

Success in Harmony

July 2007 – Vol. IV, Issue 6

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Feature Article: The Inbox Zero Crusade

Merlin Mann is a man on a mission. His blog and website, 43folders.com, houses a wealth of information about becoming more productive and managing the overwhelming flow of information we deal with every day.

Merlin recently spoke for Google’s Tech Talk series, titling his presentation “Inbox Zero.” His talk was based on his blog series of the same name. The principles he espouses are largely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology, and the main objective is to translate email to a series of actions.

Each email user must identify the core actions that email can turn into. Although yours may be different, for Merlin, there are only five possible actions. As he acknowledges in his presentation, the following five possible actions are what David Allen terms “advanced common sense”:

  • Delete
  • Delegate
  • Respond
  • Defer
  • Do

Seems pretty simple, right? Yet how many of us make sure that at the end of the day, each of our emails has turned into one of those five actions? Often, we get into the cycle of just “checking” email. Merlin uses a great analogy: that’s like a sandwich shop employee taking orders. What would happen if the employee started thinking, “wow, these orders are pretty interesting. I wonder if I have any new orders.” And then, “how can I organize these orders? What if I put all the combo orders together, and I guess these orders for roast beef belong together.” The employee is losing sight of the fact that the objective is to make the sandwich! Ridiculous, yet many email users find themselves doing the same thing. Forget complex folder structures. Make the sandwich; translate that email into action and then get rid of it.

For more great tips on getting your inbox to and keeping it at zero, check out Merlin’s Tech Talk and his 43 Folders Series: Inbox Zero (inboxzero.com).

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