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 itโ€™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 isnโ€™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: