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Summary:

If you’ve tried and failed at GTD, and you can’t maintain Inbox Zero to save your life – you might want to think about a new suggestion from Pistachio Consulting’s Laura Fitton. She calls it “Inbox Infinity” and it works this way: I want my optimized […]

If you’ve tried and failed at GTD, and you can’t maintain Inbox Zero to save your life – you might want to think about a new suggestion from Pistachio Consulting’s Laura Fitton. She calls it “Inbox Infinity” and it works this way:

I want my optimized inbox to automatically delete all messages on a rolling time frame, x weeks or days after receipt. With that as the default, I would set up rules for certain messages to auto-archive instead of delete.

Then, the idea is to cherry-pick the messages you actually need to deal with, turning them into tasks or events as Inbox Zero systems recommend you do. The ephemera, the notifications, the newsletters…you just let them fall out of the bottom of the box after they’ve done their job of getting your attention for a moment.

What do you think? Could this system work for you? And if it could…is there a way to implement it in GMail or another email client?

By Mike Gunderloy

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  1. Yikes. If my inbox gets up to 20 messages, I start sweating. Infinity? I might hide under my desk.

    My best advice: start unsubscribing from all the newsletters you can, and switch to RSS for the stuff you really want. I found that inbox zero is a whole lot more achievable when you weed out what comes in.

    Oh, and get GTDinbox. It makes things go faster.

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  2. That’s essentially what I do. I use Outlook’s Auto-Archive feature to automatically move everything in my Inbox to an Archive file after 7 days. Anything I want to keep, I either turn into a task/appointment or file it into a classified folder.

    I focus on keeping my Unread Items folder at zero, implying that I’ve processed everything.

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  3. Yeah I’m the same – if the email requires some action but nothing actionable ever comes of it or priority too low then it just falls down the list until the New Year where I dump all my email in a “Inbox – 2007″ or 2008 folder and start again :-)

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  4. I leave everything in inbox and let it auto-archive after six months. An unread status tells me that it hasn’t been read, and flags tell me if something needs doing.

    Doing it this way makes it really easy to find old conversations by sorting by “from”.

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  5. I have another idea…

    I call it my READING email account.

    I NEVER allow subscriptions to newsletters to enter my normal email — only PERSONALLY composed messages from one person, to me.

    All newsletter subscriptions, Google News Alerts, and RSS Feeds (courtesy of the magic of the free rssfwd.com), go to my READING EMAIL ACCOUNT.

    My normal MESSAGING email account is bruce@my_own_name.com

    My READING materials are sent to reading@my_own_name.com

    That way,

    (1) If I don’t get a chance to look at it, it doesn’t really matter.
    (2) If I feel like reading, it’s all in one place. And,
    (3) My normal email Inbox contains NOTHING but personal messages I need to deal with — no reading.

    PS – I also have another email address, called todo@my_own_name.com

    I forward all ToDo tasks to myself at that address. Then, I have all of them in one place, so I can copy them all to my GTD lists en mass.

    Bruce Wagner
    http://brucewagner.com

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  6. Bruce, I do something similar. I’ve maintained a separate Gmail account for years that is nothing but mailing lists. If I get to it, great, if not it just piles up until I feel like reading it. Usually I visit the account once a day or so which is enough to read what’s interesting and “mark as read” the rest.

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  7. Can Gmail do it automatically? No. Is it a great idea, and really the “same” (ha!) as mailbox zero. Well, yeah.

    Let’s remember that the issue behind discussions like this one is not reality, but people’s perception of reality. And most of us, overwhelmed, do sweat when our inboxes look full. And we probably should.

    One of the things that we do for our clients at Virtual VIP is exactly what the original post was alluding to. We clean out their mailboxes according to a schedule. And in the case of Gmail users we move it into the archive, so the data is always there and searchable, but . . . doesn’t . . . LOOK . . . like it’s there.

    And universally, the folks we handle that way LOVE it.

    Perception IS reality, folks.

    Jeff Yablon
    President & CEO
    Virtual VIP

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  8. I still think that one of the keys lies in shifting your thinking about how you handle your inbox to that of going in to sort rather than work the emails. Subtle but huge difference.

    Its just like you do with your postal mail. Once you grab it outa the mailbox, you put it in piles or the trash, and you DON’T put it back in the postal mailbox!

    And using rules to throw your reading material and e-newsletters into a file avoids your having to touch it.

    Alot of people have had success dragging and dropping into action e-folders, and setting diaries to trigger your handling…

    That being said, I’m all for automated purging when you can set rules that work for you.

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