Lost Among Europeans

Taming my inbox / Getting Things Done

In my last job, at Microsoft, I had some difficulties managing all the many small tasks I was supposed to handle. Having lots of tiny tasks is not what I’m good at, but that’s a different story. In any case, I wanted to cope better, so, I’ll admit, I bought a self-help book: “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. I found out later that JP had read it and followed a similar methodology, and this was a good motivation for me.

I never finished the book, but I took a lot of good things out of it. I now write all my pending tasks down, all in a single place, so I know I’ll check often. As I go over it, I’ll re-evaluate which are essential tasks, and which are superfluous. I’ll quickly get a sense of how heavily loaded I am at a given time, and adjust accordingly.

Another thing I started doing was to keep my personal email inbox clean. I only want to keep in it the messages I need to reply to. If I don’t need to reply to a message, I’ll file it and get it out of the way.

About a year ago, I decided to try to keep my inbox under 20 messages. At the time it had over 300 messages. After a couple of weekends of work, I achieved my goal, and not only that, I found that having less than 20 messages made it even easier to clean up my remaining messages, so that my inbox stayed at less than 10 for many months.

Then in the late summer of 2010 came the job hunt. The emails back and forth, until I got my offer. Then messages about moving, relocation, benefits, paperwork, apartment hunting, taxes. My inbox was always at over 40, but below 50.

This weekend, I have again achieved an inbox at less than 10 messages, for the first time in over half a year.

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