Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inbox Zero - Step 2 - Learn the Four Actions


Learn the FOUR possible actions...

  • Delete - This is the most important one.  Seriously.  Are you ever going to need that email again?  DELETE stuff.  It's fine.  No one will be upset with you.  You likely receive 100+ emails per day, the chances of you needing to reference all these emails is very slim. DELETE.

  • Do - If you can handle something quickly...just do it!  Even if you don't have the FINAL answer, shoot a note back asking a question...just keep it moving!  Get it out of your inbox.

  • Delegate - Does someone else need to do this?  Cool, get  it off to them right away.  Don't wait.  Send a quick note, if they don't know what to do, they will ask you, but don't waste your time on a perfectly crafted email...just get to the person who needs to deal with it.

  • Defer - This needs your attention, but you can't knock it out in the 5 minutes you spend to clean up your inbox.  No problem, move it to a place where you can come back to it.  This could be something you need to do, or it could be something you want to just review in more detail later.  Whatever it is, if it requires future action on your part, move it out of your inbox and to a special place...we'll talk more about this later.

This is it.  Every email you receive falls into one of these four categories.  Think of it as multiple choice.  A clean inbox gives you this zen karma...when you learn that there are only four possible actions, it helps simplify this task.

The obvious next question is..."OK wise guy, what do I do with the emails once I 'do' them or 'delegate' them?" Good question.  You are obviously cool with where the "deleted" ones go...and we'll talk more in the future about the "deferred" emails...You are right, we need to clarify where the "done" emails go and where the "delegated" emails go....

I would seriously consider DELETING emails that you have done something about.  If you can't do that, then simply file them.  And I'm not talking about filing them in a 39 folder system that you need a librarian to help you with.  I'm talking about just dumping them in a single folder...labeled "Keep"...or if you are using google, simply click "archive".

Folders are overrated.  With the incredible search technology of gmail and other mail clients, it's so much easier to search for info than to open/close a bunch of folders.  I strongly encourage you to just set up one folder to "keep" emails that are important to you.  Or maybe one for "Personal" and one for "Business"...but don't get carried away!