An email Inbox complained to me recently that she  was tired of being used as a storage for mail that was already read. In my conversations with other email Inboxes, I’ve noticed that some people even store ALL their email in their Inbox. Not so good for Inboxes or you.
Storing all email in your Inbox  is a bad idea for many reasons. Let’s say you’re using Outlook–I’ve noticed that it takes longer to load if you have all your email stored in the Inbox. Even web-based email clients (like Yahoo) will load slower because of the number of emails.
That apart, there’s the psychological aspect. Think about a HUGE stack of papers on your desk that you keep adding to every day. Feel like processing it? Probably not, because the task is daunting. So, you get into the procrastination mode, which is not so good for productivity. It’s the same with an Inbox full of clutter and read/unread items.
If you’re looking to clean your Inbox, the GTD two-minute rule (modified) works wonders. Read the email and then decide if you want to:
1) Reply immediately (if this takes less than two minutes)
2) Reply later (If it’ll take longer than two minutes, move it to a folder named Pending, but do not keep the email in your Inbox .)
3) Trash it (if you don’t need the information)
4) Archive it (if you need the information for later)
What you’re doing is processing your Inbox. You can get into the mechanics of what to name the folders, how many folders to use, etc., later but this simpilified version requires just two additional folders–Pending and Archive. (You can add another Read folder for items you want to read later, like articles, etc., but let’s keep it simple for now.)
It is key that you have to find time to process the emails in the Pending folder, because tricking your mind doesn’t work and if you move EVERYTHING to Pending.
Unless you’re really popular (I’m not) and get loads of email, this simple method should allow you to whittle down your Inbox to zero or close to zero. Then, it’s a matter of reviewing your Pending folder to ensure that you don’t go into a backlog. Reviewing’s a topic for another day though.
Anyway, even if you’re not into GTD, you can make life a bit easier.
: What can I say, I’m popular with the ladies.
: If you read Merlin’s Inbox zero series or other stuff on email hacks, you’re probably already doing some of the stuff I’ve mentioned here.