Fixing email : inbox zero

merlinmannSo I posed a fair few questions in my last post about email. How about some solutions?

Here’s one – inbox zero.

Inbox zero is… what? A methodology? A process? A mindset? Who knows. What we do know is that it is the brainchild of Merlin Mann, a productivity expert from the US.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Email’s just a medium
  • One place for anything
  • Process to zero
  • Convert to actions

Here’s the video from a few years ago whee Mann discussed the topic in detail.


If you don’t have time to watch that, here’s the quick version:

For every email you read, you should do one of the following things: delete it forever, archive it for reference, delegate it to someone else, respond immediately, or turn it into an action that you will execute at a later time or date.

In other words, move emails on fast. Get them out of your inbox and into the trash, in your archive, forward it on, reply, or make it an action.

People often make emails into actionable items by leaving them in their inbox, but this is bad. Instead, create a task in your todo list and then delete or archive the email. At the very least, have a folder in your email system called ‘Actions’ and drop it into there.

The keys to inbox zero are: first, that you recognise that actually you only receive a handful of emails every day that are worth more than a very cursory amount of your time. Second, your email software is good for receiving and sending email and that’s it. Third, get those worthwhile emails out of your inbox and into a more appropriate tool as quick as you can.

Have you tried inbox zero? How did you get on?