Personal Email Rules - The Basics

I didn’t plan on detailing how I deal with email. I figured that it's described well elsewhere. However, after discussing it with a friend, I realized that my email rules are a hybrid of several systems and may be different from any one elses. So, by special request, here is a complete list of my email rules for getting to zero, staying at zero, and some advanced level rules for the hardcore among us.

1. Triage - First time or Inbox over 1000 items.

  • Archive everything that is more than a month old. If it's important, they'll write again. I archive everything and rely on search. I don't file or tag manually, with minor exceptions.
  • If you are running out of storage space, learn how to search for large attachments, then delete or download/delete them.

2. Getting to Zero

  • Before opening my email, I review the rules.
  • Know all the keyboard shortcuts. Clicking is inefficient. 
  • When I open my email, I don't close it until inbox is at zero.
  • Start at the top and work all the way.
  • One touch per email. Deal with each one immediately. No going back.
  • If not actionable or reference, archive with no further action. (This constitutes the majority of messages)
  • Reference material - Drop to Evernote or archive and rely on search.
  • Actionable Quick - If it can be responded to immediately (less than 2 minutes, thanks GTD) do it right then.
  • Actionable Involved - Send to Asana action item list. (See Advanced Class)


3. Staying at Zero

  • When I open my email, I don't close it until inbox is at zero.
  • I block time to clear my inboxes. When the time is up, I archive everything that hasn't been addressed. This forces ruthlessly prioritization .
  • When a conversation is initiated in email and it should be in a workspace, I move the information to the workspace and address it there.

Advanced Class to follow. 

Johnathan Deckert