Process To Zero

Email. The bane of human existence? Or, THE Killer App?

Just finished listening to Merlin Mann’s Google Tech Talk “Inbox Zero” (hey, it was a Friday and I was shoveling invoices and reports around! It was that or Yanni from the next office over.)

Process to Zero I’m lucky in that I’m fairly nutso about staying on top of my email. It gets taken care of. However, what is fairly obvious to anyone who knows me… I am a packrat. I’m a hoarder. I can produce any non-spam email on demand for all of 2002 forward (including the attachments) that I have either received OR sent.What Merlin doesn’t address is the back-history or the “archive”. That’s a question I would have (and probably will) ask of him… I use Mail.app as he does albeit in different ways to suit our different needs. But, still… he has to accumulate a pile o’ stuff. What’s he do with it? Archive it? Toss it in the waste bin?

I don’t subscribe to the whole ’email bankruptcy’ deal. There are messages someone sends just to be cute and then there’s the habitual funny-bone who sends every damned piece of shlock they encounter. Sad to say it, but there’s one person who my SpamSieve settings know by name… everything they have sent for the last year has gone directly into the bin and I’ve not had to pull a single thing back out. Sad. I’d rather not have the ugly conversation of, “Hey would you please stop sending that crap?” That only leads to bent feelers. I’ve had those before and there’s no good way to let an otherwise good person know it’s just not a welcome distraction. So, rules-based handling does my dirty work with a guilt-free approach.

Processing to Zero is a fine objective. The book “Mastery” comes to mind as it’s the journey to mastering something that is the reward. Not the end in and of itself. (Yeah, I went all Zen on you there for a second. It’s over now.)

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4 Comments on “Process To Zero”

  1. Josh Says:

    Archives can be a problem. One thing I’ve thought of is a ‘purge day’ once a year (or once a quarter if you are so inclined). Since I store a lot of e-mail in project folders, it’s easy for me mass-delete several projects at once. I will admit that it seems daunting to purge if you follow Merlin’s idea of throwing all mail into one archive folder and search.
    I believe the purge day came from David Allen, but I’m not 100 percent sure. It may have been in reference to the reference data stored with project and tasks.

  2. gwhiz Says:

    Josh, I can count on my fingers and toes how many times my pack rat behavior with respect to emails has paid dividends. But, when it did… It paid big. So, it’s hard for me to let loose of the arvchives as I know them. If Merlin or David Allen (or Zig Ziglar or whoever!) has a better mousetrap… I’m anxiously waiting for a better solution: It’s getting kinda prohibitive to hang onto all of this.

  3. Merlin Says:

    Like I said in the talk (Q&A part), I throw everything in one “Archives” folder, then rely mostly on search, occasional tagging, and lots of subsequent Smart Folders in Mail.app.

  4. Josh Says:

    Looks like Merlin has gone into some more detail about his archiving solution:

    http://www.43folders.com/2007/08/16/one-mail-archive/

    Agreed that saving e-mails can save your bacon. But, I think a purge day is good to get rid of things you know won’t be necessary in the future, like extra e-mails in a thread, etc.
    Also, when I change teams within my company, I like getting rid of the old cruft from the old job (even though it’s still the same company). Some things I will keep if they meet the mysterious criteria in my head on whether it is important or not. But, you will be surprised what you can get by without, which I think is key to keep in mind. Especially with this new ‘uncluttering’ phase of the Internet that is going around.

    Disclosure: I am strictly PC at this point, so I’m a nasty Outlook user. Not much experience with mail.app, and tagging does not really exist for me — although I could see the benefits.


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