Clearing My Inbox

Another programming tip in the article I read was to keep a task list for the work left in your programming project and work off it.  Most projects are so large that you can't keep track of all the loose ends.  I have never had trouble keeping track of the loose ends of a project when my head is in it -- however I know the day is coming soon.

Being a former Microsoft employee and Microsoft being an email culture (at least when I was there in 1997), I use my Inbox to keep track of all my tasks.  Ten years ago it was around 200 emails -- all that needed action.   I was alright with that since I got 100-400 emails a day I was keeping them under 200 and everything was good.  About 5 years ago the inbox topped 300 emails and I was still alright with that -- keeping them paired down and knowing I would never clear it completely -- remember all 300 required action.  At the end of 2007 I had 400 emails in the inbox and I knew there was a problem -- so I set about clearing my inbox.  I have only cleared my inbox once in the past.

I just got done today.  It took me 40 hours to clear all the emails, about 10 emails and hour.  40 hours performing the email task, replying or just making tough decisions and deleting them. 

My typical daily process: my inbox usually has newest at the top and everyday I work from the top down.  Most of the time I reach the last email I didn't take action on yesterday and then work ten or so farther down.  However most of those require a reply from someone and I get discourage.  On Monday I try to follow-up or work all of last weeks emails and all of Mondays. 

So here is my tip list for clearing your inbox:

  1. Start at the oldest email and work up.  The newer emails are ones that you are waiting for a reply.  The oldest ones (in my case a year old) are ones you are never getting a reply on, i.e. easier to delete.
  2. If you have a customer question you didn't answer within a month -- they are no longer a customer, delete the email.
  3. Delete all the emails forward by your mother-in-law which you didn't think of something witty to reply back.  Following up after 6-months will not earn you any points.
  4. Sort by subject -- sometimes there is a ten email thread that you already handled which you can delete.  It also allows you to easily scan for the same types of emails which you missed deleting the first time they came by.  It also breaks the reply mental block
  5. Delete the email you sent to yourself with articles you wanted to read -- you just don't have time obviously.
  6. If you really can't decide to delete it -- leave it for the end -- the more you do this the more you want to delete it.
  7. Finish the small tasks you meant to do however put off -- they are small will not take you long, and you can delete that task email.
  8. It is never to late to reply to a friend and go to lunch.  Reply with dates that work and delete -- you don't have to handle that task until they write back.
  9. Make well named folder and move the email.  If it is a reference article, customer feedback, or FAX you need to save get it organized.

Good Luck





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