I keep seeing folks with thousands emails inside their Inbox… I hardly can get it. Actually I do not get it. I cannot imagine actual mail box getting filled with thousands of letters – so why making your Outlook Inbox a trash can?
As a consultant I spend most of my work time working on my laptop – writing code, writing docs, reviewing stuff, summarizing meetings, etc. Context switching is of high rate but My life Definitely Changed When I understood that Focus Is The Key.
I decided that the simplest way to focus one my action items is get them into one place – my Outlook Inbox. My customers send me emails, my friends send me emails, my manager sends me emails, my colleagues send me emails. So if I have some other action item – I got phone call, I have some idea, etc – then I just do post (ctrl+shift+S) into my Inbox.
Once in inbox I need to handle all this avalanche of emails. Just like I clean my mail box, I do the same with my Inbox. I set some time – usually in the morning – just after I walked my dog and before kids wake up, but any other time works too. What I do with mails is the following (the ultimate goal is to sort while scanning my Inbox – not to read!):
- Junk move to delete
- Tech good stuff move to KB pst. NO READING in depth!
- Customer/Engagement specific FYI move to Customer/Engagement pst
- Action item (from customer, my manager, my peer, myself) – block time slot in the calendar to handle it. Just block time slot, put the email in it and forget. When the time comes – I am in context to deep dive into it.
- Personal move to personal pst
Takes me minutes to clean the Inbox and block times to handle it afterwards.
If my Inbox grows I start to worry since I know there is something I do not have (have not blocked) time to handle it and it can get worse. The worst thing for me is when Inbox gets scroll bar.
When my Inbox is clean I know everything is planned so I can go ahead and change the plan (or just execute against it) rather skipping from one fire alarm to another.