Many people use their Inbox as a todo list. Since the average person gets over 80 messages a day, the Inbox just doesn’t work very well as a todo list: it fills up too fast.
So what’s the answer? The answer is to have a lightning fast
system for moving messages out of your Inbox. I call the method I use:
the three buckets. In the three bucket system every message you don’t
move out of the Inbox by deleting goes in one of three buckets called:
Reference (for those you need to keep), Calendar (for those that need
to be done at a specific time), and Tasks (for everything else). For
more information about the method see Escape From Email Hell – Chapter 4.
So what’s the quickest way to move messages if you use Outlook?
Delete. When you have a bunch of messages, sort them by Sender by clicking the From
column header. Then click the first one you want to delete, hold down
CTRL, and click each of the others. After they are all selected, press
the Delete key.
Forward. Use the short cut CTRL+F to forward them and then
delete them. If you need to follow up, I recommend that you BCC
yourself and then move the resulting message to Tasks.
Move to Reference folder. To create the Reference folder (or
whatever you want to call it), press CTRL+SHIFT+E. Then, when you have
the message open, click the Move to Folder button, and select the folder.
Move to Calendar. From the Inbox, right-click the envelope icon, click and drag the message to the Calendar icon. Then choose Move Here as Appointment with Attachment.
This moves the message out of your Inbox and attaches it to an
appointment. All you need to do is choose a date and time and save the
Move to Tasks. From the Inbox, right-click the envelope icon, click and drag the message to the Tasks icon. Then choose Move Here as Task with Attachment.
This moves the message out of your Inbox and attaches it to a Task. I
recommend that you give every Task a date. For a quick way to enter
dates see Speed Soothes Stress.
For the best way to set up your Tasks views so that you see what you
need to see when you need to see it, check out Linenberger’s Total Workday Control Using Microsoft Outlook.
So how do you develop the habit of getting your Inbox to Zero?
First, one way or another, get your Inbox to Zero one time. Then
decide how often you are going to check email. For most people
somewhere between once an hour and once a day is good. Last, every time
you check your email, get your Inbox to Zero. If you will commit to it
for three weeks, it will become a habit. If you are like me (and most
people), you will fall off the wagon from time to time. When you do,
just set aside some time to get back to Zero again. It’s really that
If you already get your Inbox to Zero on a regular basis, post a comment letting me know how you do it.