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Les McKeown's Predictable Success Blog

  • December 5, 2007
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Inbox Zero – I Do It, and You Can Too… 

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I reduce my email inbox to zero every day – yes, every single day. You can do it to – here’s how.

At the core of personal Predictable Success is the ability to manage your own time

A major element of time management for any manager is dealing with email. Most people don’t control their email, and as a result they are working under perpetual a cloud of guilt and oppression, generated by the knowledge that at ant point in time that darn inbox is sitting there, waiting for them, with line after line of bold (unread) subject lines…

I don’t have that problem (and it’s not because I don’t receive email I receive just as much as you do). I’ve simply found an elegant and workable way to stay on top of my email consistently, and I work at it – hard – every day.

"At the core of personal Predictable Success is the ability to manage your own time" - Les McKeown, Founder and CEO, Predictable Success

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It’s a variation of David Allen’s methodology in his great book “Getting Things Done – The Art of Stress-Free Productivity” (if you have any interest whatsoever in personal productivity, get this book).

Consistency Is The Key

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that ‘Inbox Zero’ is an easy thing to achieve. It requires a fair amount of upfront time investment, and a commitment to staying on top of your email on a daily basis.

There’s also the need to pick yourself up and get back into the game after you’ve fallen off the wagon (a week of vacation or constant travel can wreak havoc with your system if you’re not careful).

But just like developing a regular exercise routine, achieving Inbox Zero (even while traveling or vacationing) gets easier the more you work at it.

Once you’ve got started and work your system for a week or two, you will begin to develop a natural rhythm that works with your personal work style, and fits your own daily and weekly routine.

Make It Personal

I don’t believe there is just one way to achieve Inbox Zero – even the ‘Getting Things Done’ methodology isn’t ‘one size fits all’. Much more important is that you understand the key principles involved in effectively managing email, then build your own routines and processes to implement them.

(This isn’t as hard work as it sounds – there are only five key principles, and the ways in which you can implement them are limited).

Some of you will go hardcore on the David Allen method (HINT: If in the past, you’ve happily invested in multitudes of productivity tools like Franklin planners, PDA’s, printed schedules or computer software – in other words, you’re a productivity addict, then you’ll love ‘GTD’).

For many others, however, although they find the book helpful, getting started using the GTD methodology can seem daunting.

So if you’re one of those people who isn’t really a ‘productivity junkie’ – if you view firing up your email with the same distaste as I have for going to the gym – then here’s a gentler, less hardcore way to get started.

It’s based on a presentation by one of my favorite productivity writers, Merlin Mann (what a great name, eh?), and I’m embedding it here with his permission.

The original presentation was made to Google employees, and Merlin is a bit of a techno-geek himself, so as you can imagine there’s a bit of nerdiness in the first five minutes as Merlin and the Googlites get comfortable with each other.

But Merlin’s a great communicator, and his principles are timeless, so bear with it for a few minutes and you’ll be richly rewarded. Enjoy!

Like more of Merlin Mann? Here’s his website – a great productivity tool in its own right.

What About You? What Are your Top Productivity Tips? 

Let Me Know In The Comments Below!


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