[productivity] the new found un-dread of email

So, I’ve been following the Inbox Zero approach for about 3 months and so far it seems to work. I’ve adjusted the scheme a little and I’ve integrated some tools to make it easier for me. Firstly I don’t always process to zero. Some emails do stay in my inbox after I read them, but they are rare. The criteria I use for leaving them in my inbox is that I need to digest just forthe day, the emails contents, before responding thoughtfully.

For the purpose of archiving I couldn’t get myself to let go of hierarchy and I’ve decided that Year/Month was the right level. At the beginning of each month I just create a new folder and Thunderbird let’s me search my folders recursively. Easy enough.

Ok, Thunderbird then. It works very well for me, but it does require a couple of add-ons to make things truly smooth. Inbox Zero suggests that meetings should go into a calender and so I’ve added Lightning. This seems to handle my calendaring needs quite well.

Since one of the mantra’s in Merlin’s approach is process to zero (i.e. empty the inbox) it should in my mind be easy to do. Most email clients make deleting easy, but archiving and shuffling around often falls victim to the grooviness of the GUI or Drag and Drop. That is too tedious for me. I like to stick with keyboard shortcuts. That’s where Nostalgy comes in. It allows me to go, save or copy to another folder simply by using one of the g, s or c commands followed by the name of the folder. The clincher is that it doesn’t require you to type the full name. I just type s8-04 and it lists my INBOX/Archives/2008/2008-04 folder. Brilliant!

That last piece that falls into this general subject is that of follow-ups. Again they should not just sit in your inbox, if you need to give someone a call 3 days from now or if you want to check back on a ticket. For a while I was adding it to a general todo list I keep, but that was tedious. The I found ReminderFox. It’s a reminder tool and full todo list add-on for thunderbird. Which shows you due items in the bottom corner of the mail application. I’ll be honest, it looks really nice, but I only use one part of: the reminders and in particular for emails. ReminderFox allows me to right click on an email and select Add a Reminder…, then I archive or delete as usual.

I’ve found that this seems to work very well to keep my inbox very near zero and quite frequently completely empty.

I sure wish I had started doing this years ago.

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