7 Reasons to Keep the Inbox Empty - Part 4

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

The inbox is NOT a to-do or task list – email delivers tasks.

The inbox is simply a holding place for newly arrived messages. It should be visited on a regular (but not constant) basis with the simple aim of making decisions – sifting, sorting and prioritising the latest batch of incoming messages.

Put a time limit on how long you can spend going through your inbox. Don’t get caught up reading articles or viewing videos etc at this time (schedule them for later). Best practice shows that for most people, 4 scheduled blocks of 30 minutes each day should be more than enough to turn all your email around within 24 hours.

‘Kill off’ e-mail to get the in-box empty

Again, the aim of visiting the inbox is simply 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 some time 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 delivers a task that will take more than approx. 2-5 mins should then be converted into a calendar appointment, rather than a to-do or task list – here’s how (and why).

By adding this new task to your calendar, you make a better quality decision about when to get this task done, as you integrate into your schedule and balance with all the other tasks and workload you are already managing. This way, it can be dealt with at an appropriate, focused, single-tasking time in the future. 

Next in this series looks at #5: Avoids procrastination and indecision. Get the full 7 Reasons to Keep the Inbox Empty article from the Resources webpage at any time.

All the best!

Steuart G. Snooks