BUSINESS, ORGANIZE your work | September 28, 2009

Best Way to Keep an Empty Inbox

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Like many of you, I lost control of my inbox over the last months. I received too many emails every day. Once in a while, I would try to sort everything but I often gave up after an hour due to this immense task. Not anymore! My inbox is empty and it will stay that way.

Sort Your Emails by Priority

If you switch to the priority technique, you will never have to deal with a full inbox. The revelation came from the fact that you need two sorting systems for your emails. First, you sort your emails by assigning a priority level to every email. Once a task is done (email is answered), you move the email in the right filing category. This way, your inbox stays empty at all time. As a bonus, you will not forget important and urgent things.

Make it Fit Your Needs

Define your own priority level. Do it in function of what you do for living. You could have 3 levels: Urgent, Important but can wait, Later. This is the simplest and quickest way. You can find inspirations on organization office supplies, like the Make it Work bundle that I am showing you.

I define instead a 7-priority level system that is task oriented for my work as a blogger.

  • Rush
  • Must respond
  • Daily Reads – I create a filter on Gmail to immediately send my favorite newsletters to my daily reads
  • To Do – it is a mix of current meetings and tasks
  • To Write About – to remind me of potential stories
  • To Read when time
  • Project.

Everything else is deemed trivial. I either archive the email, with or without further classification, or delete the email right away. I went over my full inbox in 2 hours using these rules.

My inbox was full because my old classification system required too much thinking to determine how to file each email. Plus, it failed on the urgency of the emails. Assigning by priority forces you to take an easy decision. I am convinced my inbox will stay clean from now on.

I wish to thank my good friend Nathalie Rivard for telling me about the task oriented sorting mechanisms. Nathalie got that advice from Isabelle Lopez, who got it from a friend. We can all learn from each other.

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4 Responses to “Best Way to Keep an Empty Inbox”

  1. Thanks Kim. Very useful. I will pass along the info too to others that might face the same problem.

  2. How to keep your inbox clean!

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter

  3. Myself, I went with the more classic priority filtering by first classifying incoming emails in 3 folders:
    – Urgent: must answer soon
    – To Follow: should answer or check out sometime in the future
    – Others: everything else
    My Inbox is always empty.

    I then take care of emails in the Urgent folder and move them folders when done. Then, I check my To Follow folder once or twice a week. The Others, I usually batch process them.

  4. Best Way to Keep an Empty Inbox : ( via @kimvallee )

    This comment was originally posted on Twitter