When I returned from my holiday and returned to work I faced an inbox with 200 emails in it - this could easily have taken quite a lot of my entire first day to work through. Instead I created a new folder and put them all in there. I then quickly scanned that folder for anything flagged as urgent and any meeting requests and dealt with those immediately. The rest I worked through over a few days. I worked on the theory that any emails being received from then on were more important and more timely than those received during the 6 days I was away. This felt quite liberating and so I decided to adopt an "empty inbox policy".

So, at both home and work I now have an empty inbox. When emails come in, I scan them, decide if they need further action and then make use of the ability to email tasks in to remember the milk (rtm) to move them into my to-do list. The tasks then end up in my rtm inbox where I tag them, add an estimated time to complete and move them to an Actions list. Of course some emails have attachments, and those attachments don't make it over to to rtm so I've created a folder in my inbox called Actions (in Outlook) and a tag called Actions (in gmail). If an email has something attached that I'm going to need to refer back to it goes into the Actions folder. All other emails get filed as they would normally do. Nice empty inbox. I discovered that at work I had some emails that were there for quick reference - I get a weekly "This Week/Next Week" email which is a high level view on what the major projects and deliverables are, and a daily "Today/Tomorrow" email which lists holidays, key meetings etc. These are useful, but don't need actioning so I've created a special "This Week" folder for these to live in, and which gets emptied every Monday in preparation for the week ahead.

I've been working with this strategy for 2 weeks now, and it feels good. I longer have tasks listed in different places - which is a major gain, although rtm does now have a much longer, somewhat more daunting, list. This is still a work in progress though and I haven't perfected it yet - I'm going to take a look at some of the hints in Battle your inbox: 11 habits to an empty inbox and see what I can gain from that. I know that I still check my email too often - so I need to address that. I also know that I'm being a bit too rapid with my "forward to rtm" strategy and am accepting tasks which may not actually fall to me, or don't have information on when the task is to be completed by (something that bit me yesterday when I had to respond to an urgent plea for a response to an email sent earlier in the week but which had no indication of importance or when the information is required by).

Time management is something I'm actively trying to improve on at the moment so I'm sure there will be more posts about this in the not-too-distant future.