Tuesday, May 26, 2009
A few weeks ago, I watched the Youtube of a Google Tech Talk given by Merlin Mann, the creator of the Inbox Zero concept. Merlin is a productivity guru and creator of the 43 folders website. First, I’ll note that Merlin looks so much like the Verizon Can-You-Hear-Me-Now-Guy that I found it distracting, yet oddly comforting.
After watching Merlin’s 53 minute power point presentation, I realized that I am in the market for a productivity guru about now. I would imagine that the first thing my guru might mention is that I have no business spending 53 minutes watching a Youtube video of anything. He then might reference something about the laundry that’s been sitting in our dryer for 3 days and if he was really a dick, might ask me to speculate on the last time I’d washed my hair.
My biggest productivity challenge at the moment is getting the necessary stuff checked off my to-do list so that I can have more time for the truly important things. Today’s truly important things alternate between assisting in the naming of all the roly-poly bugs in the driveway and reading aloud, the book of the week at our place, All About Scabs. That is the good stuff that I want more of. During this time that I am fortunate enough to get to spend all day, everyday with my kid and he wants (wants and prefers!) to spend time with me, I want to take advantage of it. I am always looking for tools to streamline the flow of the stuff-I-gotta to make more room for the stuff-I-wanna. This is where we get back to Merlin’s Inbox Zero idea.
The Inbox Zero concept directs that each time you check email, don’t merely check, but act on the email, whether that means, answering, archiving or deleting. Convert each email to action and process to zero each time.
For the past month I have been slowly working to clear out my gmail inbox of the 4,842 emails that have been multiplying there since the great email address change of 2005. As I processed all of the old stuff, I also processed the new stuff to zero as it came in. A few days ago, I reached my Inbox Zero goal. It's taking some time to get used to the look of a naked inbox but I'm liking it. It is making the sometimes overwhelming e-mail situation feel manageable.
I first learned about Inbox Zero on unclutterer.com, an organizing/decluttering blog that I am fond of. Matt at Unclutterer points out that having an email inbox filled with useless emails that you are saving out of laziness, or just-in-caseness is as much of a hindrance to productivity as clutter anywhere else in your life.
These same principles can apply to many other things. My next goal is Paper Zero, which uses similar actions applied to mail and paperwork. That sounds really hard. I will have to work up to that.
Merlin has some other heretical suggestions to maximize efficiency when working:
Do not keep your email window open.
Close your email window while working and only check mail once an hour.
These ideas are too advanced for me right now. I am attached to my distracting little moments of checking email every few minutes. (I like to call these “breaks”.) This pays off big in the areas of procrastination, time-sucking, and failure to complete tasks. (All listed on my business card.)
Yes, of course I would be more productive if I closed down my windows/tabs for email and for Facebook, Twitter, TMZ, CNN, Mint, Pandora, and my home page with 12 RSS feeds, but I can not yet imagine that world. (Did I mention that there’s this really cute Japanese anime kitty screensaver on my home page and she changes tasks throughout the day? Look! She’s eating watermelon!)