Failing Inbox Zero

If you know me, you know that I like to imagine myself as a person who can deliver on time, be perfectly organized and always be prepared. I am often failing on all three of the above, but that is how I like to imagine myself.

Keeping Inbox 0 is one of the things I like to do. For you who have never heard the phrase before, it roughly means that you should try to keep your inbox (email or other) clear every day and do one of the following with the messages:

  • Delete if you don’t need it anymore
  • Archive it if you want to access it later
  • Forward/delegate stuff someone else should handle
  • Add to your To Do-list/calendar if it is something you should do
  • Do it directly if it is a really small task

The feeling of having zero e-mails in an inbox that usually contain 1000’s of messages is a wonderful thing.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped doing Inbox Zero. I do that once in a while and I always regret it afterwards. It is never a conscious decision. One day I find myself with a huge inbox filled with hundreds of messages. The reason is almost always a combination of the following:

  • A period of sickness and/or personal issues
  • Too much on my agenda
  • No real plan on how/when to solve the things I promised
  • I stop going to the gym

The habits break down, one after another. Sickness leads to me postponing my gym time, and since I don’t stick to my regular routine I somehow start skipping other things that I usually do.

I figured that I need better triggers, so now I empty my e-mail inbox daily based on a really simple Trigger: An automated script adds a new Trello card to the top of my To Do-list every work day. Since I start my day looking at the Trello board it immediately makes me want to move that card from ‘Doing’ to ‘Done’.

(And if you’re wondering why I’m talking about triggers, you should read Charles Duhiggs great book, The Power of Habit where he explains how to build great habits.)

So, now I’m back in business again. So far I am happy with Trello as a To Do-list manager in all its simplicity.

Are you a habit person? Did you lose your good habits - and how did you get back on track? Please share in the comments.