The Inbox Zero concept is attritubuted to writer Merlin Mann who recalls how he marveled at email back when it was new. Zipping off a note to a friend studying in the UK, getting an immediate response, feeling connected to other tech folks all around the world. It felt like magic! He says the magic lasted about two years, then - like most of us - he began to feel buried alive in email.
Mann's original video is well worth an hour of your time, but it is almost a whole hour. Here's a link to the really great slides from that talk.
And if you're pressed for time, here's a link to the heart of the Inbox Zero concept, "processing to zero," focusing on the 5 potential actions on any email:
If you're looking for some practical solutions to common email hassles, check out these 5 email "cheats" here at 43folders.
And Wired magazine offers these productivity tips (scroll down to the section titled "Declare Email Bankruptcy"). For many of us who first got a web-based email account back in the 1990s, the prospect of going through our entire email inbox and sorting - even sorting with the great productivity tools and ideas above - seems daunting. And for some of us, the solution as been email bankruptcy. Email bankruptcy is essentially throwing your hands up and declaring surrender. Admitting that you almost certainly will not be able to sort through all those emails, ever. Even if there's something super important buried in there somewhere. Email bankruptcy involves selecting all emails - or all emails older than a particular date - and hitting delete. Can you imagine the terror and relief that would come with that?
Now, there is an alternative to email bankruptcy - for example read this article about avoiding email bankruptcy.
And I'll tell you my experience. I struck a compromise between all-out email bankruptcy and my ongoing treading water in information overload. I picked a date about 3 months in the past and moved everything older than that into a folder which I labeled "Old." So the emails are still on the server with the rest of my email data, but not in my inbox. So now when I sign on and check email, I get a message like "3 unread emails," which is so much nicer than "2,957 unread emails."
Email, newsletters, blog updates, viral videos - this is all great stuff and I can't imaging life without these. But these can also quickly become distractors from that which matters most - what you and I are really here to do and be and share with the world. Email bankruptcy and Inbox Zero are two approaches to managing that distraction.
What about you - how do you manage the nonstop tsunami of data in your own life?