Many moons ago (102 to be exact) I was getting fed up with my constantly growing inbox. I would get an e-mail, read it, make a mental note that I needed to take care of it soon, and then be shocked three weeks later when I found it buried under a pile of 300 other messages. Something had to be done.
It was then that I created two strategies. The first was to treat my e-mail inbox as a *gasp* INBOX. If it was still in my inbox, it was something that I needed to take care of. The problem that I had, and that I suspect most people have, was that I was both afraid to delete anything in case I needed it again and afraid that I’d never be able to keep everything filed and organized if I tried to clean-up. My solution was to just give up on any semblance of organization and take all the thousands of e-mails bloating my inbox and stick them all in the same folder called “Archive.” I figured that I could search for something if I needed it again. And you know what? It worked great. On the rare occasion that I needed something after it left my inbox, the little bit of extra time searching was never more than the time it would have taken to organize the thousands of e-mails I would never need again.
Over the years I did eventually add two additional folder for ex-inbox messages, one called Info and one called Fun. Info is for things that I’m more likely to need again such as invoices and travel itineraries (it makes searching for them a bit easier.) And the Fun folder is for all the jokes and pictures I get from friends. I don’t know if there’s any value in keeping them separate but it feels nice to have a folder completely dedicated to bad jokes and even worse Photoshops. I suppose one day my biographer can dig in there to get a window into my psyche (perversions?)
With all this in mind, it was great to run across a concept called “Inbox Zero” which was pretty much what I was doing instinctually. Now, when people hear that I only have 2 messages in my inbox I don’t worry when they look at me like I’m either wildly unpopular or hyper anal retentive. I can just point them to the resources where they too can tame their inbox.