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E-mail INBOX: empty or "unbold"/"unmarked"?

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  • E-mail INBOX: empty or "unbold"/"unmarked"?

    Hello everyone!
    I've been hearing all the time the "INBOX ZERO" approach.

    I follow a "unbold"/"unmarked" approach, which basically means that if there isn't any BOLD or MARK messages, I don't have anything ACTIONABLE on the list, although the INBOX is not really empty. The number of e-mails is irrelevant, if you guarantee that there's all REFERENCE.
    Does anyone have a similar approach?

    The reasons for this: that saves me the trouble of managing archive folders/ deciding where is goes / or deciding whether I want to delete an item or not. Considering the powerfull SEARCH engine of most e-mail programs and the decreasing cost of disc space, I don't see real benefits in worrying about "emptying" the INBOX. Any tips that I may be overlooking on this approach would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • #2
    The only problem I would see with this is one of visual clutter. Granted you can see "no bold = empty inbox", that still means a scan down a long list of emails, however quickly you can do it. There's nothing easier to view and see as having nothing to process than seeing nothing there. Given most email programs' search capabilities these days, a simple "Archive" folder should be sufficient. There's no need to have multiple categories/folders, just one to put the email when you're done with it. Also, if an email is in bold and means "actionable" for you, does that mean there is an NA in the email? If so, the GTD approach would recommend you glean the NA from the email from it and either trash it, incubate it or file it in reference. One of David's points I always try to strive for is clean, crisp edges to the different parts of my system. Clutter can lead quickly to a loss of control and perspective.

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    • #3
      I would echo Jon's clutter comment.

      In Gmail, I use 3 "folders".

      Inbox
      Starred (Action Support items)
      Archive

      If your email program allows you to easily filter the inbox by unread or marked, then you effectively have a 3 folder system too.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by gtdexperience View Post
        Does anyone have a similar approach?
        Any Gmail user on the planet.

        Originally posted by gtdexperience View Post
        The reasons for this: that saves me the trouble of managing archive folders/ deciding where is goes / or deciding whether I want to delete an item or not. Considering the powerfull SEARCH engine
        The powerfull search engine... heh.

        In Gmail you have just one buckt called "All mail". No folders at all. What you do have are labels and you label each conversation (a conversation is a bundle of emails pertaining to the same conversation.) the way you like. The inbox is just the view of all mail labeled "inbox" (which gmail does automatically, off course).

        So, yeah, you discovered the secret behinds gmails convenience.

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        • #5
          In my case, I just have a single unsorted archive for all of the email for one year, and I dump the read emails in there every day or so.

          So I agree with you on not bothering to set up elaborate archives, and on the searching abilities of email. But I still don't like all that email in my inbox, so I dump the "unbold" messages into the archive every day or two.

          I also don't keep known "actionable" messages in the inbox - I record all actions represented by the email into my GTD system, often with a reference to the email that's sufficient to find it if I want it later ("Email John Jones 5/19/09") and dump the email in the archive.

          Gardener

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          • #6
            Originally posted by gtdexperience View Post
            I follow a "unbold"/"unmarked" approach, which basically means that if there isn't any BOLD or MARK messages,
            I've been doing a variation of this for some years. All incoming and outgoing email is tagged "Unprocessed" by rules. I remove the tags as I process the emails. I like the tag better because I frequently read an email during emergency scanning but usually don't process it until I do my email in bulk in the mornings.

            This works in both Outlook and Gmail very well. It probably works better in Gmail because you only have to remove the tag once from an entire thread rather than for each individual email (of course, the thread is re-tagged if more related email comes in). Gmail also has a shortcut key which will remove the tag and move to the next or previous email automatically.

            Tom S.

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            • #7
              When email enters my inbox, I either process it right away (2 Minute Rule), or use one of three folders on my Macbook Pro:

              Action
              Filed
              Later

              My inbox is always empty at the end of the day.

              Comment


              • #8
                My employer limits the size of our email accounts, so I need to keep it clear. Whether or not you move it out of the inbox, you need a reliable way to mark whether you've processed each mail. My routine is:

                1. Cut & paste all the inbox to a "process" folder on the hard drive.

                2. Go through the mails in "process", dragging to my task list where I can't deal immediately

                3. Cut & paste the "process" folder to my "reference 2009" folder. (This is the "processed" marker).

                You can't get inbox to zero, if you are as popular as I am (?!), but you can keep it current and you can keep your "process" folder at zero.

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                • #9
                  I just have a single folder called 2009, every quarter, I move the last quarters emails into their own folder, so currently I have Q1, & 2009 (q1 arranged under 2009 in the hierarchy). When emails come in I go through them, respond to those I can, flag those that need further action, and dump everything into 2009. I then use a search folder to pick up flagged items, and have 2009 arranged by name so I can easily navigate to emails from anyone.

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                  • #10
                    Semi-Automated Email Processing in Outlook

                    I have a process that I find works very well, although I cannot claim credit for devising this method, it was implemented after hearing about it on a Podcast from the GTD Virtual Study Group, but it's very efficient and works really well.

                    (Assumes Outlook 2003 or later).

                    Create a subfolder of the Inbox called Inbox09, ditto with Sent Items.
                    Create a rule that does the following for all mail messages:
                    - Flag for follow up in 0 days
                    - Move to the Inbox09 folder

                    Create a Search Folder Called Next Actions, set the Criteria to Flag Status = Follow Up.

                    I then have a button on the toolbar that clears the flag.

                    Once setup, all email that comes in, gets moved from the Inbox to the Inbox09 folder for easy archiving - 2 folders each year. (This could also be put straight into a PST File if size limits are an issue on mailboxes.)

                    All new messages are then flagged in this folder with a Little Red Flag, I can then process them and add them to my next actions list.

                    Once I have processed the message, I then click the Clear Flag button on the toolbar which clears the flag and the message dissappears.

                    I have an Inbox at zero with a clear indicator of what has and hasn't been processed and a single folder with all my messages in to reference back to.

                    I also have search folders setup using Categories to group messages in both Inbox and Sent Items for specific projects, people, suppliers etc. Email related to these items or people is tagged automatically by using rules.

                    Please feel free to contact me if you require more info on obtaining the Podcast which includes step by step instructions and screenshots on how this works!!

                    Ross.

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                    • #11
                      Wow, I'm amazed at the relative complexity of these systems!

                      I just have a couple of folders. When an email comes in, I reply to it if necessary, and update my lists as necessary with whatever work is inherent in the email. Then I move the email to the most appropriate folder, same with a regular piece of paper that enters my system.

                      I honestly don't need the email folders, thanks to improvements in search technology over the years.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by GTDWorks View Post
                        When email enters my inbox, I either process it right away (2 Minute Rule), or use one of three folders on my Macbook Pro:

                        Action
                        Filed
                        Later

                        My inbox is always empty at the end of the day.

                        I think that's the perfect approach, but... I haven't been seeing many perfect work-contexts lately ... What I mean is that when people get into CRISIS MODE, they usually need:
                        1. efficient emergency scanning system (which implies ->2.)
                        2. ability to "read" the e-mail without deciding what to do with it, and get back to it later, without it "falling thorugh the cracks" -> usually flag/mark/mark as unread

                        I understant the "efficiency" aspect of reading it only once, but it gets very innefective in most work contexts, because it is to big a change of attitude. IMHO, the system should provide a semi-approach that enables people to practice the "decide it ASAP", without making it "religious", meanwhile it copes with the realistic emergency environment of someone who is just getting the first benefits of GTD... A kind of baby-steps approach...

                        What do you think on that? Did you make a major jump? How was your "landing" into GTD mindset?

                        Once again thanks for input.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Brent View Post
                          I honestly don't need the email folders, thanks to improvements in search technology over the years.
                          I still separate out all list e-mails into separate folders in part so that I can decide when I want to read them more easily. Am considering combining the rest of my e-mail into an archive folder. Only issue for me is the organizations I am an officer of can get involved in either court cases (water rights issues) or IRS messes. SOmehow it's always seemed easier to have those messages in one place for filling out responses rather than searching for them.

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                          • #14
                            Oogie: Ah, yes, that's true. I do that at home, automatically filtering mailing lists into folders. Thanks; I forgot to mention that!

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                            • #15
                              I have found the Mac Spotlight search system to be excellent in finding whatever it is I want or need from my email. The three files I use do work quite "religiously" for me seeing that I'm a busy pastor!

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