March 29, 2006

Inbox to Zero… my experiences…

Posted in GTD, Mac at 10:58 pm by a11en

For a while now, Merlin Mann over at has been discussing the idea of getting your e-mail inbox to "zero" messages. Now, to many this sounds insane. Especially when you're dealing with a bazillion e-mail messages a day, everything from how to take your "little mr." and turn him into "big mr." to that colloquiem for work that you may or may not eventually think about wanting to attend next week. Or, your mother who continually sends you e-mail hoaxes which have been sitting on for almost as long as the internet has existed. But, the reality of the matter is, if you're only concerned with those items which absolutely need your attention, your actual important e-mail correspondences are quite small to meager in comparison to everything that crosses your desk. So, with some liberal application to Archiving and sorting e-mails which require action (@action folder, perhaps split into work and play), you can pair down your inbox so that you start your day fresh and can reply quickly and effectively to all correspondences which require it, or file those which need longer than 2-minute responses (GTD).

So, I've successfully brought my e-mail inbox to zero on frequent occasions. But, here are a few benefits I've found of late. [I won't tell you *how* to do this, you know that you have to transfer into an archive or trash the messages which aren't important/modestly important to you.. as well, deal with and/or place those items needing action into a proper place/folder/mailbox for them.]

By doing so, all of a sudden I get a clearer picture of my signal-to-noise ratio. How much crap am I getting, and where does it need to go? A prime example are all those work-related lists you've found yourself added to which you rarely actually read, but want to keep 'cause you're like that… or me, rather.. a pack rat… So, when you get them in, with a nearly empty inbox- go ahead an make a filter right there and then… farm it off to a folder that should receive that list's e-mails and in the future, you can forget about it… one last thing to worry about in your inbox. As well, that Eddie Bauer and SportsmansGuide e-mail list.. farm those off to the right folders with a filter as well… Essentially, with a clean inbox, you all of a sudden realize what you're getting that you don't care about immediately, but want to automatically archive for future use. This helps your inbox stay at zero longer.

A description of my setup: I use Thunderbird, with the YAMB extension installed, and Growl and the command line for notifications. Careful of the "seconds" option in Yamb- you want to disconnect from the internet and declick that seconds radio button really quickly after being installed. Anyways, when setup properly, it notifies me with the subject and sender of the e-mail messages in a nice little (and beautiful) growl notification. [You will need Yamb to call the appropriate growlnotify shell command, and have growlnotify installed properly.] A description of this use can be found here. Also, anything I don't want notifying me, (let's say those adverts we were talking about earlier), get automatically filtered to a folder *outside* my inbox folder. Yamb can be chosen to notify you only on items coming into your Inbox folder in Thunderbird, and in this way I reduce the amount of notifications that Thunderbird interrupts me with. Another great way to reduce the clutter in your inbox, allow you to keep working when unnecessary e-mails come in.

Now, the only thing I wish I could get working is an automatic snopes search for anything that's been forwarded to me. 😉 he he he. Why is it always the women in the family that send e-mail hoaxes and chainletters out to everyone… or those "hugs- pass it along" type messages? Oh well. Gotta love 'em even so.

Earworm: "The Blues" performed by Mary Lou Williams from the album My Mama Pinned A Rose On Me

Now, Back to work!! 🙂


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