Hooray!!! I finally cleaned my Inbox!
For those who know me, this is quite an achievement. I really loved to see the look on people’s face everytime I was logging onto Msn messenger and the window popped up displaying “You have 3000 new messages in your Inbox”. Priceless, but in the light of my recent interest for the David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) workflow I realised that I wasn’t in control of my inbox anymore.
For the past year I had adopted a position that consisted in letting my Inbox grow as much as it could, gathering the various newsletter from Amazon, car rental companies, alerts from ebay and forums but separated from the important emails which were stored in a folder called …. Important. The plan was that when I would reach the Hotmail 2Gb barrier I would just automatically delete everything from the Inbox folder.
This was real nice and really made sense but this wasn’t really GTD, The important email were too far from immediate reach and sometimes I realised too late that I forgot to reply to an important email.
I was contemplating the recent “Email bankruptcy” trend and start fresh with Gmail but that just wasn’t possible. Too many people or organisations have my email and I wouldn’t be able to change it that easily or start all over again. That is not possible but this is always in the back of my mind though, especially since I rely on Web based email service.
Oh, by the way, let me clarify something first. My primary email is on Hotmail and I have been using it for about 8 years. I do have a Gmail one, a yahoo one and even one for my different professional involvements, but my take on it is that if you are serious about being reachable, you need to stay consistent and stick to one and only one email that people have/will know(n) for years and which is both easily accessible and simple. Hotmail through MSN messenger offers just that. Easy access and simple.
Some people don’t like Hotmail because of the amount of junk they receive but to me it has never been a real issue as the junk would usually end up in the Junk mail folder anyway. Previously I would have checked my Junk Mail folder once in a while to make sure I didn’t miss any emails but since they rolled out the new version 2 weeks ago, I now surprice myself only checking it, just to make sure it is still working. From 10 junks a day it went down to 1 a week.
Regarding ISP and professional emails, they are just not in the line of being reachable and consistent. Nowadays people change jobs more frequently than they change ISP so where are your friends, or people you forgot about, gonna contact you once you move from Dreamworks to Sony or the opposite?
Till last week I felt that my email workflow was too passive and I wasn’t on top of things anymore then I thought that it would be great if my Important folder would come up first when I check my hotmail, to remind me of the tasks or emails I have to respond to but unfortunately they don’t allow you to do that so I came up with something different.
What about using my Inbox as a task reminder! Yes that was plain simple ;-) I just went in circle and rediscovered what the Inbox should be. The place where you store important emails you have to deal with.
As such, my new workflow it the following:
As soon as open Hotmail I automatically move the newsletter and not so important emails to a “black hole” folder. This is where I store stuff I would like to read one day, but only when I have time (does it ever happen?). All the other emails become important emails that I have to deal with however I will only open the ones I am ready to read or that I am assuming will take less than 2 minutes to process. If I am expecting an email from a client with a long list of tasks then I leave it aside for when I have more time.
I still have an “Important” folder but that one is only for emails that have already been processed and that must be kept for reference like Invoices or Online bookings. At the end of the day the Inbox must be empty or only filled with emails that will be processed as soon as possible