I get a fair bit of email (up to 100 messages a day), and I think it could be quite easy to get swamped, and to miss something important. Over the last year or so I’ve been looking at methods of dealing with email, and in particular have explored variations on Inbox Zero.

My current routine for dealing with email is quite simple:

  • I only have two mail folders; Inbox and Dealt With.
  • Everything comes into my inbox, and doesn’t leave my inbox until it has been dealt with.
  • Dealing with a message could include reading it, replying to it, or using it as the basis for a calendar entry, a task, or a block of time put aside to work on a particular project. Once the item exists elsewhere, then the email itself is dealt with and so it can be moved.

I do this with all emails; at home and at work. Home emails are really straightforward, because most of them are from mailing lists or are for information only. I use Thunderbird at home, with Google Calendar to manage my schedule and tasks. At work I get a lot more mail, and it is a lot more important. I use Evolution for everything (or Outlook on Windows), and if a task is suitably complicated it gets converted into our call logging software and becomes a task/project with a target date and time put aside to work on.

As far as backups go, work email is backed up centrally. Home email is copied to the mail/file server in our study as soon as it is delivered, so that if I accidentally delete anything I have a second copy.

My other mail rule with email is that I have times in the day when I will always clear my inbox. In the morning before work I clear my home inbox. I then go to work, and clear my work inbox as my first job of the day. Then I clear it again before I leave. I then do home email again when I get in, and then again before I go to bed. I never leave work or leave home with messages that have not been dealt with.

And that’s how Inbox Zero works for me.