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NEWS | Jan. 14, 2013

What "Zero Inbox" can do for you

By Master Sgt. Brian Potvin Air Combat Command

- Your mailbox is full.

That annoying message seems to appear whenever we have an important e-mail to send, or we are waiting for a vital communication.

Most people are limited to 100MB maximum mailbox size. Trying to keep an inbox to a size where it is not plagued by constant warnings from the Exchange server can prove to be a daunting task. It behooves us all to take a look at our mailboxes and clear out what we truly don't need to retain.

A few years ago, Merlin Mann developed a philosophy called "Zero Inbox." This Zero Inbox philosophy can be an effective way for us to pare our mailboxes down and make us more effective at our jobs. Mann's organization tactics are streamlined into five categories:

Delete or Archive
Email that has been read, resolved or has no sway on your business should be immediately deleted or archived.

If an email needs to be forwarded to another person in order to complete a task, forward it. As usual, don't forget to follow up with that person to ensure the task has been completed.

Not all email requires a response. Some can simply be acted upon. Entering a meeting into your calendar is a good example of this. In the event that you do need to send a reply to someone's message, keep it short and to the point, no more than five lines in length.

If you don't have enough information to take action on an email, or your response to a message is dependent on the work of others, come back to it later. The Zero Inbox philosophy demands that after you've read a message, move it out of your inbox by setting up a folder for deferred action. And don't let this folder get out of control.

If you can take care of a task sent to you via email, do so immediately and get it out of the way. Once the task is completed - you guessed it - delete it from your inbox. Or archive it.

Those are the basic categories the Zero Inbox philosophy requires. Your particular job or position may require you to have a few (or several) more folders. However, if you effectively employ the tactics described in this philosophy, this can be a great weapon in the war against inbox bloat and counterproductivity. Keep in mind that these folders you create should always be in a PST file that is saved on your local hard drive, not on a network share drive.