I know you might think that I could just archive all email, or move it to all archive copy. But no... I had diligently review all my email from November and December 2009, and found by the end of the day I had zero email in my inbox.
As a background, I usually received around 30-50 emails per day in my office inbox; and I had never done a complete swap on my email. My habit -- a very bad one, i know -- was giving a quick glance over the incoming mails and selected only those that I thought interesting or important to answer. Sometime even if the emails are important, I had a tendency to put on hold the emails that coming from people that I'm afraid of. I was afraid to make mistakes in answering them, and the result was I didn't answer at all. I also had not filed the emails in folders. There are times that I did that, but after sometimes, I gave up.
The result of my bad habits, I had thousands of emails starting from 2004. Around 25% had not been opened at all; 35% were opened but had not been answered and 40% were answered. So how could I zeroed my inbox?
So, what I did was, on the last 2 weeks of December 2009, I reviewed every single email that coming during November and December 2009. When processing this email, I was applying the David Allen's Getting Things Done Rules:
- DELETE IT - If nothing should be and there's no use for me to keep
- DO IT - If to do it only need less than 2 minutes
- DEFER IT - If I need to do it, but need more than 2 minutes (I turned it into TO DO, so I could track it)
- DELEGATE IT - If I knew somebody could response to it faster.
- FILE IT - If there's nothing I should do, but it's important
Some lesson learnt when doing this:
- Set aside specific time per day to process all the email - Don't response to all emails everytime they come.
- Review them diligently from top to bottom, and not selected only the important emails. If the email that coming from a department store was on top of the email from my manager, open it first. You could DELETE IT, if it's not important.
- Set up several folders - Action Now, Scheduled, Waiting For, Project Support File and Reference
- Use all the facilities provided by the email application - Follow Up Flag, turn email into TODO or Calendar, Calendar reminding
- The most important thing : Maintain the discipline - this is something that I need to struggle - after 1 month, eventhough my inbox is not zero, at least it is below 50 -- I KNOW!!! I need to be more discipline on that... :D