My Inbox is out of control!

I’ll admit it, I’m an email pack rat. I don’t like being this way, I just am. I’m terrible about deleting emails. I send myself links to read at a later point in time. I often use my inbox as a todo list by sending myself messages of things I need to do. There is a freaking todo list in my email client (Entourage) for goodness sake. I have a backpack account with 37 signals. Good lord, why am I using my inbox as my todo list. This is nuts.

Its time to stop. In the past I had heard of people having zero messages in their inbox. Merlin Mann is most noteable for quoting the term ‘Inbox Zero’ and you can read more about it at 43 Folders and there are some great videos of the inbox zero concept given by Merlin Mann himself.

To start off, my work inbox had 3770 items in it. Freaking ridiculous! There are messages in there from 2006! 2-0-0-freaking-6!!! So, here is what I did to solve this issue.

First, I created 3 folders.

  • Archive – This folder is for everything that I don’t have a specific folder for concerning a project, but may need to access this email at some point in the next few days. Now, in order to keep the size of this folder from getting out of control, I setup a rule that will check the messages in this folder on a regular basis. If messages in this folder are over 30 days old, they are automatically moved to a local archive off of the Exchange server.
  • To Respond – This folder is simply for messages that I need to respond to, but I need to either research something or more thought on my part is needed so I put messages in this folder to respond to by the end of the day. I do not let this fill up. It is always empty before I leave for the end of the day.
  • DMZ – technically, I’m cheating a bit here. I’m taking everything that was in my inbox and moved it to the DMZ folder. What this did was allow me to start having an inbox zero box now. I didn’t have to go through all 3,770 messages and get it down to zero. I started now. Refreshing, quick, and I’m off to a good start.

Its only been a 12 a day with this new habit, but good habits have to start somewhere. So I’m going to set a small goal of keeping my inbox clean for the rest of the week. If I’m still on track, the next goal is the rest of December. Small steps, small steps.

Matt Patterson avatar
About Matt Patterson
Husband, Father of 3, Programmer at heart, spends his days running ridiculously large data centers in the midwest.