I’ve finally found an email system that works, and I can prove it. Using the same tool I wrote about in my War On My Inbox post, we can see that I’ve shaved about 10 hours off my response time while increasing my percentage returned.
So there are a couple of parts to my new system, one high-tech system and one simple trick.
The first piece to my achieving Inbox Zero almost daily is a new inbox system. Andreas Klinger showed this life hack back in 2013, it is by far the best email system I have ever tried. You’ll want to read his post to get the details, but he sets up multiple inboxes so that your page looks like this:
On the left is his empty inbox and on the right are all the messages he has flagged as needing some sort of attention. The single biggest key for me was to turn on the feature that automatically loads the next email instead of sending you back to the index. This makes it much more likely that you’ll process “just one more” and you don’t waste time scanning the index to pick the next email to process.
Using his system I can efficiently get to Inbox Zero every day; it has been a game changer.
The second system is decidedly low-tech; after reading about some studies that showed that simple physical reminders greatly improved productivity I made this todo tracker:
I flip up the paper clip from todo to done each time I finish a task; it makes a very satisfying click. And the paper clip with the green rubber band, that one represents getting to Inbox Zero.
The physical system has really made all the difference for me. With a glance I can see how productive my day is so far, and it motivates me to get things done. My system works well with my desk setup, but one could use almost anything to track work done. Moving marbles from one bowl to another, or marching action fiction across the desk. Really you’re only limited by your imagination.