Clean Out Your Inbox - Day 5

Welcome to Day 5 of the 6th International Clean Out Your Inbox Week. 

Today is your big day - this is the day you get your in-box totally empty!

So far this week, we’ve discussed . . . 

  1. How many emails are in your inbox now, how many are unread and how much time it will take to process them;
  2. Controlling WHEN you look at your e-mail – scheduling specific times to address your in-box so that you eliminate e-mail ‘as an interruption’. This allows you to single-task your e-mail so that you ‘make a decision’ the first (and only) time you look at each message;
  3. Using the 4D methodology to decide on the next action required for each email, eliminating multiple handling of email at the inbox level;
  4. Simplifying and organising your e-mail folders so that you can quickly file (and easily retrieve) messages away from the in-box 

Create a Backlog folder

And now, here are the steps to get your in-box empty right now and still be in control (even if there are hundreds or thousands of messages). 

  • Create a new In-box subfolder (call it Backlog)
  • Select all messages in your In-box (highlight any message and then click CTRL+A)
  • Drag and drop the highlighted messages to the new Backlog folder (ta-da - an instant empty in-box!)
  • Now set up a recurring reminder in your Calendar to spend 15 minutes a day processing your Backlog folder. Schedule this time for 15 minutes before your departure time at the end of the day – this time of day will help you to be focused (and ruthless) in making a decision on each e-mail, as you will be wanting to get it done quickly so you can get away from the office. See image below.
  • Use the same decision-making criteria when clearing your backlog as used for making a 4D decision about new e-mails. 


Processing your backlog

When you begin to process your backlog folder, start with the most recent e-mails first, as these are the ones that are most likely to still have actions or replies you can make. What you’ll find is that, by the time you get to the older messages, the only decision you’ll need to make is whether to delete or store (in one of your new organised folders). You can even sort by name or subject and file 10, 20, 30 or more messages at a time. As a result, you’ll zoom through the older messages very quickly and it won’t seem nearly as overwhelming a task as it had first appeared. And remember to keep using the 4D method to keep the inbox empty each time you visit it, at one of your scheduled times!

Claim your free prize!

E-mail a screen shot of your empty in-box and you'll receive a free copy of the Taming the E-mail Tiger Resource Manual with 42 pages of guidelines and 'how-tos' on the 5 Golden Rules of Best Practice E-mail Management. 

P.S. Please leave your comments below on any of the blog posts from the Clean Out Your Inbox Week.

All the best!

Steuart Snooks