7 Reasons to Keep the Inbox Empty – Part 4

#4: The inbox is NOT your to-do list  

Today’s blog post is the fourth in a series of 7 Reasons to Keep the Inbox Empty. 

The inbox is NOT a to-do or task list – email delivers tasks. It is simply a holding place for newly arrived messages that should be visited on a regular (but not constant) basis with the aim of making decisions – sifting, sorting and prioritising the latest batch of incoming messages.  

You need to ‘kill off’ e-mail to get the in-box empty

Again, the aim of visiting the inbox is to process e-mail - to make decisions, not necessarily to respond to each email. It might help to realise that the word ‘decide’ comes from the family of words that includes suicide, homicide, genocide etc and essentially means ‘to kill off’. So when you don’t make a decision about an e-mail, you don’t deal with it (or ‘kill it off’) and it stays in the inbox to be revisited and dealt with again at sometime in the future.  

The way to ‘kill off’ e-mail the first time you look at it is to use the 4D method to make a decision. Any e-mail that carries a task that will take more than 2-5 mins should be converted into a calendar appointment (rather than a to-do or task list). This way, it can be dealt with at an appropriate, focused, single-tasking time in the future - the task that arrived via e-mail is now integrated into your schedule and balanced with all the other tasks and workload you are already managing. 

All the best, 

Steuart Snooks