An empty inbox is a happy inbox

One of the books which made an impression on me this year was David Allen‘s Getting Things Done.

I can’t say that I’ve completely internalized the GTD system, but a lot of it makes sense. One item which resonates very strongly with me is the need to keep one’s inbox clear — rather than reading a piece of mail, then leaving it in the inbox, it’s better to move it to an “actions pending” file if it can’t be dealt with immediately. That way, the inbox is “new news”, and you don’t have to keep touching old stuff over and over again.

But even though having a clear inbox is a goal, it’s also very difficult for me to do. And once I fall off the wagon, so to speak, it’s very difficult to get clear again. But I managed to clear my work inbox before I left a week ago (I’m sure it’s loaded now, but I haven’t looked at it, so that doesn’t count). And I spent most of today clearing my Gmail inbox, which was even harder work.

Most of what I’d left in my Gmail inbox came from one of two sources: The Union for Reform Judaism‘s weekly Torat Chayim and daily Ten Minutes of Torah mailings accounted for the biggest share, along with Kolel’s weekly commentary. I’d fallen behind while travelling some time during the summer, and every time I thought about catching up, the size of the task discouraged me. And so I fell behind further every week. But today seemed like a good opportunity to make a dent in the backlog, and once I got started, I got into a rhythm. I did take a few breaks, but I finally caught up.

Of course, there’ll be new mailings next week (as well as the other stuff which arrives in the mail), but at least for tonight, I feel that I’ve accomplished something, just in time for Chanukah.

One thought on “An empty inbox is a happy inbox”

  1. That’s interesting because the whole philosophy of Gmail seems to be that you don’t need to file anymore, not when you have really good search. It seems to conflict with the whole GTD philosophy (which I have started reading — very interesting — thanks for the loan), and I wonder what techniques people have used to bridge the gap. Does gmail encourage you to scan and rescan your inbox and hence be less productive? Can you use gmail in a way that is more consistent with the GTD philosophy?

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