About Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero

To support the first step in a GTD approach, one needs a different mindset when it comes to email. Over the years Ty has developed a strategy for managing inboxes that attempts to squash terrible project-ADD and prevents him from spending all day playing wack-a-mole with the inbox. Everyone has their own preferences, but it could be really helpful to see his system if you are needing some advice in this area.


Close to a textbook "GTD" methodology but with a spin on certain aspects, Inbox Zero is the idea that you should touch each piece of email that comes in exactly once, and that once it’s dealt with, you should remove it from your inbox.

  • Process all email that comes in by:
    • Rapidly jotting down work-to-be-done in your trusted system, replying with confirmation of receipt, archiving
    • Replying to provide the answer that someone needs, archiving
    • Archiving immediately, if no response is necessary
  • Never skip an email or leave it sitting in your inbox for later.
  • Touch each piece of email once
  • Check your email at set intervals for brief windows of time each day. Do not keep your email open or allow email to ping your phone.
  • Unsubscribe judiciously from time-sink email that isn’t helping you (service notifications, chain emails, etc. I use custom Gmail filters to help with certain senders)

Unfortunately, there is very little good, succinct information on inbox zero to be found.

Here is a quick recap incase you don't have time to watch just now:The basic rules of workflow are:

  • Touch any input once (email, text, basecamp), then archive it
    • If replying or dealing with the work takes less than 2 minutes, do it now. Otherwise...
    • Log tasks in trusted system (Omnifocus), or..
    • Delegate to someone else
  • Process the new tasks into projects (bundles of tasks) and contexts (things you need in order to perform the task)
  • Add deadlines if and only if there is a real-world consequence for missing a certain date. "I want to have it done by X" is not a deadline.

Here is another method that is similar to the GTD method that may be helpful for you:

And an article version: