My Inbox Is My ToDo List

A few months ago my mailfile in work was
getting overwhelmed with old emails and stuff that I didn’t really need
to keep so I started a little experiment to see if I could work differently.
The first thing I did was archive everything from my mailfile so that I
had a nice empty mailfile with 0 documents in it. I then removed all the
folders that I had created and I set the soft delete option to 336 hours
( 14 days ).

Now that I had an empty mailfile i waited
for the first email to come in. It was a simple request, make a small change
to an application to add a field into a particular form. It only took a
few minutes to do and afterwards I emailed back the requestor to say it
was done and to test it etc and then I did something different. I deleted
the original email request. I had an empty inbox again.

Over the next few weeks I kept doing
the same, as requests would come in I’d work on them and then as soon as
it was finished I’d delete the email. Not everything can be completed in
a few minutes so sometimes the original email would sit in my inbox for
a day or two but as soon as they were done the email got deleted. This
meant that everything I was working on or had to do was sitting in my inbox
until I was finished it.

Of course not everything is a request
to do some work, there are emails that contain information that I need
to keep, like installation codes, or login info for online services.  These
emails don’t stay that long in my inbox either. I have a couple of journal
DB’s sitting on my workspace, a personal one to store info I need to keep
just for myself, like login info for the company healthcare plan, I have
a ‘local office’ one to store info that only pertains to the office I work
in and I have a ‘Company KB’ to store info that belongs to the company,
like the info needed to install our helpdesk system etc. So when an info
email hits my inbox I just move the info it contains into one of the journal
DB’s for future reference and then delete the email from my inbox.

So two months later and my inbox currently
has 8 emails in it. I know what I’m working on and it is a great motivator
to try and empty my inbox by getting things done. As emails come in I evaluate
what to do. It’s it’s an instant resolution and I can put my current task
on hold then I’ll do the new request and get the email deleted. If it’s
something that will take a little longer then I just leave it in the inbox.

My inbox truly is my todo list and it
works great.

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3 comments on “My Inbox Is My ToDo List
  1. I’ve been working this way for a while now and its quite effective.

    Recently however I built a Helpdesk app that allows the IT team to suck emails out of my inbox to create tickets OR create standalone tickets. Its used for breakfix work as well as work requests so everything I do is in there.

    The advantage of this is that the Helpdesk app makes my WIP list more collaborative and transparent; progress updates etc are out in the open, can be automatically notified to end users etc.


  2. Well, my current email database is about 1.1 GB with over 39,000 documents but… my Inbox is empty or nearly so. I’ve always worked liked that – I can’t stand having anything in my Inbox. If it’s there, that means I have something to do. But I am a packrat – I save everything. There’s too much information in those folders to delete them.I was shocked the other day when working on a client’s email and there was nothing in his Inbox – I thought something was wrong! I’ve never seen anyone else do that. Everyone else I know has thousands of messages in there. I have no idea how they manage that.


  3. Mike Eovino says:

    @2 — I use unread marks for this. If something is in my inbox, I want to deal with it. If it’s unread, I need to deal with it.I like Dec’s idea of using journal DBs to hold information you want to hang on to.


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