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  • Unread Mail (2399), How to deal with this mess?

    OK, I'm making another commitment to get GTD rolling again. Email is my biggest remaining obstacle. I work in a culture where "Reply all" = CYA. It's kind of a game, as long as you've sent the email, you've successfully passed the buck and accountability to the next person. I had over 30K unread emails, but I was able to bulk delete most of them, by selecting corporate and vendor spam.

    983 of the emails are in my inbox are unread, There are thousands of read emails hanging around in the inbox

    Some of the stuff remaining should be saved, but most of it is garbage. Some of it is valuable information. I've been pretty good about extracting the necessary actions, but I want the comfort of an empty inbox.

    My job is mostly project based, some is position responsibility, some is organizational actions or information.

    Does anyone have a strategy for cleaning this up? Finding a new job and starting with a clean inbox might be the quickest solution.

    Thanks

  • #2
    Yep, you create a folder called TO SORT and you drag the emails over there. Then you focus on keeping your inbox clear from now on. And you put a next action on your list to sort that folder. Set aside X length of time each day to gradually process down that folder, maybe 10 mins here or there.

    As you say you've been pretty good about pulling out next actions, I'd pull the unread stuff into a priority to sort folder, as there may be next actions in those that you haven't seen yet. I'd clear that folder first.

    When you come to sort the other folder, sort by person if you know that the best stuff comes from specific people.

    Comment


    • #3
      You have hope

      I just yesterday listened some free Davidco podcasts and in one off them David Allen discusses about your situation. (http://www.davidco.com/individuals/podcasts)

      You may also find this non GTD article usefull: http://getitdone.quickanddirtytips.c...l-backlog.aspx

      My succestion (this is basically how I managed to get email inbox zero):

      1) create a email folder backlog
      2) Select all messages older than 30 days and delete them.
      3) Move all your messages to backlog folder
      4) Start processing your email as they appear. Keep inbox clear every day.
      5) Every day, use 15-120 minutes to process your backlog folder (start from newest)


      Also, you can probably do much easy processing by sorting emails with sender or subject.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by jrdouce View Post
        983 of the emails are in my inbox are unread, There are thousands of read emails hanging around in the inbox

        Some of the stuff remaining should be saved, but most of it is garbage. Some of it is valuable information. I've been pretty good about extracting the necessary actions, but I want the comfort of an empty inbox.
        Take all the read e-mails that you believe you have all the actions from and dump them into a single reference folder. No reason to try to extract out the trash, just save it all anyway. Doesn't take up much space.

        Then for the remaining 1000 or so, I'd go ahead and leave them in the inbox, that's's because for me I forget to go process things that are not in my face. But I'd make a pact to clear all new messages every day and also clear out either some specific number or for some time of the old one. Goal for me would be a clean inbox in 30 days so you need to do about 30 old messages a day or so to get clear as well as keep up with what you have coming in.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by jrdouce View Post
          Does anyone have a strategy for cleaning this up? Finding a new job and starting with a clean inbox might be the quickest solution. Thanks
          You could declare email bankruptcy, or watch the two "Backlog" webinars on GTD Connect. The two-week free trial will give you access to those. They are linked on the home page in the Webinars archive list.

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          • #6
            If you use Outlook you can use the "Clean Up Folder" feature to remove unneeded links in long e-mail chains without losing attachments in the middle. I then suggest you sort by sender and look for blocks of e-mails that you can delete without reading. Then sort your inbox by date received descending (most recent at top) and process as usual. If you encounter a message that's part of a chain, use the related messages search tool to quickly identify messages in the chain and remove any that you don't need to see.

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            • #7
              should I have cc'd this to everyone?

              Originally posted by jrdouce View Post
              Finding a new job and starting with a clean inbox might be the quickest solution.
              I can't say there's anything appealing about working in a CYA culture, so clearly I'd support you moving to greener, healthier pastures! But there's no chance a new job comes with a pristine, empty inbox. You're more likely to inherit all 30,000 unread, unfiled emails of your predecessor!

              The backlog webinars are a great place to start. You are not alone!

              Dena

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              • #8
                Great ideas.

                I was unaware of the "Clean Up Folders" functionality. That is going to be useful when I have 30 reply to alls with 1 attachment I need.

                I have created an "_Inbox_Backlog" folder and dragged everything from before Monday into it. If I can keep my inbox clean going forward, I'll have a finite pile of old emails to sort through. If I can see the end, I can reach the end.


                Thanks.

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                • #9
                  it takes time

                  I feel your pain, I've just gone through this process with only 200 emails.

                  I blocked out 2 hrs each day this week on my calendar. In the past I've underestimated how much time it would take.

                  I'd definitely agree with this:
                  5) Every day, use 15-120 minutes to process your backlog folder (start from newest)

                  Good luck!

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                  • #10
                    Nice to come in to day to only 20 something emails in the in box, most of those were batch generated, or routine notifications. Only 1 demanded immediate attention - and got it.

                    I knocked off hundreds from the _Inbox_Backlog folder yesterday, I'll spend another 1/2 hour today on that.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jrdouce View Post
                      I knocked off hundreds from the _Inbox_Backlog folder yesterday, I'll spend another 1/2 hour today on that.
                      That's worth celebrating! And don't forget to plan a small reward for finishing too...

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                      • #12
                        Sorting by subject is also a useful step to clear through backlogs, to easily identify a string of emails in a conversation, then you can kill off 29 and keep the one at the top.

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                        • #13
                          Day 3 leaving with an empty in box and loving it.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by jrdouce View Post
                            Day 3 leaving with an empty in box and loving it.
                            Congratulations!
                            I found that inbox zero was one of the biggest wins of my early GTD endeavours. It is the one habit that I have had very little trouble maintaining as it is just way too good to lose!

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