I’ve been a fan of David Allen’s system of Getting Things Done for a while, but have always had trouble keeping an empty inbox.
What difference does this make to my life? Mainly just that I no longer struggle to distinguish actions from reference material. Previously, when my monolithic inbox got really bad I’d ‘mark as unread’ things I knew I still had to do, but deep down I knew the notion of new-and-unread and something-to-do were distinct, and that something was wrong. I’ve maintained two empty inboxes for a week now, and I see no reason not to be able to keep them that way.
When new email arrives it will either be junk, reference or an action.
- Junk is the best, since it’s deleted on sight and takes no more of my time or energy.
- Reference material goes into an ‘archive’ folder, which largely gets ignored until I need something. My archive is a (fairly coarse) hierarchy. I’m too lazy for anything too elaborate here, so I’ll probably end up relying on search tools to find things.
- If it’s an action – an email containing something I have to do – I ask myself, “can I deal with this right now, in less than one minute?” and if I can I do it there and then. (the book suggests two minutes, but I find that something I think will take two minutes will end up taking five or ten). If it will take longer then it’s moved to an ‘actions’ folder for when I do have time do it.
If you’ve never heard of Getting Things Done, I’d recommend 43 Folders’ GTD introduction as a great place to start.
– Roo Reynolds (Pervasive Messaging Technologies, IBM Hursley)