Be water, my friend

One of the things I pride myself on is that I try to respond to messages as quickly as possible. While this has sometime’s gotten me into trouble (sometimes it’s best to let things stew), I am do get asked how this is doable given the constant stream of noise that most of us deal with every day.

The answer is easy: My inbox is empty.

I’ve been able to keep this philosophy pretty consistent over 10 + years now (despite the recent ‘inbox zero is wrong’), and I follow the general rule that I would not let email overwhelm me — Email is not my task list.

The trick, while difficult at times, is to keep your Inbox below 5 items before the end of each day. Trust me friends, once you get there, it’s amazing how liberating this can be.

The workflow is pretty straight-forward, for every new mail:

  • If I don’t need it and can delete it, I delete it immediately.

  • If it’s something that I can answer immediately, I do. Then the email goes into the ‘year’ folder or deleted.

  • If it’s something that I need for information later, it quickly goes into the ‘year’ folder. If the email was a link to an article, a video, a podcast or whatever else that I can consume later, it quickly goes into Pocket. Then the email is deleted.

  • If it’s something that I need to think about or take action on, it quickly goes over to Things as a to-do item, with tags, a project and a due date. Then the email goes into the ‘year’ folder or deleted.

The process is simple and quick and my inbox never becomes a dumping ground for tasks.