Most famously advocated at 43folders, Inbox Zero is a way of applying GTD to an electronic inbox.  It’s one thing to process our paper inbox, but another entirely when it comes to email.  Quite simply, it is the idea that you should have an empty inbox at least once a day.  And further, you should process your inbox back to empty each time you process.  That means delete, do (if less than 2 minutes), delegate or defer everything that comes in.

I’ve been struggling with this lately.  Frankly one of my next actions for today is get my inbox to zero.  Here are my struggles.

Waiting fors:

  • If I respond to someone and know they will be getting back to me soon and that the conversation is “hot” I have a tendency to leave it in my inbox.  I really don’t need to.  I can archive a gmail conversation and when the next message comes in the whole thread will pop up again.  This is really my old pre-gmail habits wining the battle and I need to stop it. 
  • If it’s NOT a hot conversation I need to start entering these things on a “waiting for” list so that I can get them out of email.

Idea: Part of why this is happening is that I’m not checking my waiting for list often enough… Perhaps I need to create a checklist for my reviews that includes checking the waiting for list, since it seems to be something I forget.

Deferred reading:  This is a bad one.  When I am in google reader if I see an article that looks interesting but will take more bandwidth than I have at the moment or which has a ton of links that I want to look at, I tend to email the post to myself so that I can move on with my reading.  Good for reader, bad for email.  Once I get these (which is almost immediately) what do I do with them?

Idea: My overall next actions list is on paper, so perhaps I can make good use of the Remember the Milk gmail add on by using that as the store place for all those things that I get emails about and need to read.  Instead of keeping a reading list on paper it can be the one list I do keep electronically.

Projects but with (soon) upcoming due dates: What I mean here is, for example, the email that I have a conference proposal due soon.  I have the individual next actions on my list and the final due date is on my calendar, but I don’t seem to be reminded often enough about those things.

Idea:  Move my Projects list with the due dates on it to in FRONT of my next actions list to hopefully force me to look at them.  Better yet, move it to FACING the next actions when my planner is open so that I can see clearly what big dates are coming up as I try to determine what action to do next.

Of course, if my weekly review were more consistent and automatic many of these problems wouldn’t happen.  Still, these ideas should help….