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Email Challenge Day 3 – Set a Timer Today

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In yesterday’s challenge, we helped you set up your archive folder and archive your old emails. Your archive folder is the (searchable) place you store your email messages once you are done processing them.

Processing your inbox is often a mechanical job. You are there to route information to the right places like an intelligent (we hope) sorting machine.

This type of work is often of lower value to you and your organization. Your time is better spent on creative problem-solving tasks (or resting, or recreating, or reflecting, or reading, or in your relationships, or pretty much anything else… even things that don’t start with the letter R).

The word, processing, is Getting Things Done speak for determining what needs to be done with the information. If the information is actionable, the action will be either:

  • done
  • delegated
  • deferred

If the information is not actionable, you’ll either:

  • trash it
  • incubate it
  • store it in your reference folder

Today, we’re going to show you how to process your emails efficiently so you can start filling your archive folder with those “done” messages and start saving time on email.

One of the things that can make processing your inbox slow is not knowing where to put everything. What you do with an email is determined by its content.

Where to sort your email.

Here are the five most common places for your processed emails:

  1. Quick reply – if the email needs a response and you can do it quickly (less than 2-minutes), go ahead and reply. Once you’re done, archive the message and do a happy dance – you’re one step closer to inbox zero!
  2. Put it on your to-do list – sometimes you’ll get an email that creates more work for you (i.e. an email from your client asking you do something). When this happens, you don’t want to completely stop what you’re doing but you also don’t want to forget about it either. The best thing to do in this case is to write it down on your to-do list (i.e. “Follow up with Mike to figure out the podcast schedule for next month”). You can use a digital task manager like OmniFocus, but even a paper to-do list will work.
  3. Put it on your calendar – if the email is an invitation to be at a particular place at a particular time it should go on your calendar. It’s also a good idea to pull out any useful information that will allow you to be fully prepared for the meeting or event. This can be done by putting notes in the description field or adding an attachment to the event.
  4. Store it for later – if the email contains information you want to hang on to (i.e. login account credentials, attachments you want to save, etc.) then you should put it in a reference folder. The best digital reference folder we’ve found is Evernote because it’s free and allows you to search and find things quickly and easily, but you could also print things off and store them in a filing cabinet if you’re old school.
  5. Trash it – a lot of the email we receive belongs here. If you receive an email that doesn’t elicit one of the previous three responses, you probably don’t need it and you can delete it.

The Takeaway

Even if you have hundreds of unread messages in your inbox, it’s important that you start small. As your Day 3 Challenge, process your inbox for 30-minutes. That’s it! That’s one pomorodo and a little sum.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Set a timer. The goal is to get in the habit of quickly identifying and deciding what to do with the emails still left in your inbox. You can use the above framework to deal with each email quickly.

After today you’re one step closer to cutting your email time in half. Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll start to know where all your emails should go in seconds.

Let us know in the comments how it went! Isn’t it amazing how much you can accomplish in just 30 minutes?

Check back tomorrow for day 4.

Update: Day 4 is now here.

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Posted by Lisa Young  | September 25, 2017 at 1:39PM | Reply

I was able to look through all my emails and process them in less than 30 minutes- and have nothing left in email. Yay!

Posted by Amanda  | September 23, 2017 at 7:43PM | Reply

I’ve completed my 30 minutes- got a lot done but there is still work to be done. being consistent will be the key!

Posted by Valerie  | September 23, 2017 at 4:26AM | Reply

Requires alot of focus, but makes me feel more in control and less stressed.

Posted by Adam  | September 22, 2017 at 7:16PM | Reply

30 minutes wasn’t enough for me either, so I did two pomodoros but not back to back. Like others, I’ve now added too many longer than 2 minutes tasks to omnifocus and I think I need to calendar a omnifocus task crunch to feel the sanity again.

Posted by Antal-Pap Judit  | September 22, 2017 at 3:37PM | Reply

30 minutes was not enoughfor me, but I Could archive and trash hundreds of mails, even unsubscried many of them.

Posted by Neil  | September 22, 2017 at 3:19PM | Reply

Had enough emails for about 15 minutes of archiving. My bar for keeping got much lower as I got moving. The whole inbox is clear now.

Posted by Rena Wolf  | September 22, 2017 at 2:33PM | Reply

Cleared out a ton of emails in that half hour! Still have a long way to go, but this method really helps to focus on sorting quickly.

Posted by Tim Hauser  | September 22, 2017 at 2:11PM | Reply

Processing like this works well, but I struggle with getting back to the emails placed on my to do list.

Posted by Oren  | September 22, 2017 at 11:32AM | Reply

Clearing it out!

Posted by Russ H  | September 22, 2017 at 11:01AM | Reply

Simple and effective. I’m feeling less overwhelmed already. Thank you!

Posted by Jenny K  | September 22, 2017 at 10:51AM | Reply

I’m doing the challenge! But I need help with something. Let’s say the email requires more than 2 minutes of work so the item goes on my to do list. What do I do with the email?! Flag it and leave it there till the task is done and I can respond? Or do I archive it? My inbox is filled with flagged messages of things I need to do.

Posted by Kenny  | September 22, 2017 at 9:34AM | Reply

Happy to say, I’ve always been good with this part. Its the repeatedly checking that I need improving on.

Posted by Helen Gunther  | September 22, 2017 at 8:44AM | Reply

I tried really I did. This is going to take commitment. Somewhere around 10min in I lost the focus and went randomly off in another direction I just thought of thanks to an email giving me an idea.

Must set timer, must stick to task…..

Posted by Karen  | September 22, 2017 at 8:36AM | Reply

It was great to have a block of time to process!

Posted by Eric  | September 22, 2017 at 8:23AM | Reply

Done. Inbox Zero. Next?

Posted by Paul  | September 22, 2017 at 4:33AM | Reply

I tend to be good about keeping my email down; but check it constantly. It was hard to just schedule a time and not check throughout the day…this will take some getting used to!

Posted by Isis masoud  | September 21, 2017 at 10:16PM | Reply

I checked my email 6 times today and I’m surprised how quickly I’ve moved thru my email when processing with your protocols. Very helpful!!

Posted by Keri  | September 21, 2017 at 8:57PM | Reply

I hope I can stick to this method of sorting email. It was simple and effective!

Posted by James W.  | September 21, 2017 at 8:14PM | Reply

Cleared my inbox in 12 minutes!

Posted by Mark Badeau  | September 21, 2017 at 6:53PM | Reply

Was able to clear all unread and process the inbox in the 30 minutes, pomodoro is working

Posted by edward  | September 21, 2017 at 6:46PM | Reply

less than 10 minutes.

Posted by Brenda  | September 21, 2017 at 4:36PM | Reply

Still playing “catch up” for missing days at medical appointments. Did not’ set the timer (just got to the point of reading yesterday’s instructions) but noted time spent in email after archiving the over 30 day old items, and have 75 less emails in inbox since the time I archived the older items. So I feel like progress is being made – but know I’ll make more tomorrow.

Posted by Ashley  | September 21, 2017 at 4:31PM | Reply

Can do a lot in 30 min, but still checking throughout the day.

Posted by Barb  | September 21, 2017 at 4:15PM | Reply

Done, apart from 2 or 3 pesky emails I don’t know if I will have time to read (or watch the video) later; whether I should be honest & say i won’t & delete them or if I should continue to kid myself I will watch/read them before the next instalment is released next week. (I won’t. They should go.)

Posted by Bill  | September 21, 2017 at 4:00PM | Reply

30 is done , looks like all the important were done yet still more to do. I set up a delayed send for 15 minutes so I would not get immediate responses to temp me to do more

Posted by Heather  | September 21, 2017 at 3:35PM | Reply

Surprising how much you can clear out in 30 minutes! It feels good to know that all those tasks are now captured in my task manager, organized and ready to go.

Posted by Caro  | September 21, 2017 at 3:16PM | Reply

Difficult to only sort the mails and not handle the to do in the mail right away… And now need to make sure that I do not loose sight of these to do’s in the to do folder…

Posted by Raymond  | September 21, 2017 at 3:01PM | Reply

this has helped me reduce my email read time to 25 minutes.

Posted by Daniel  | September 21, 2017 at 2:31PM | Reply

Done, but I can see how it gets away from you quickly…especially when meeting in and out of clients offices.

Posted by Angel F  | September 21, 2017 at 2:09PM | Reply

Yes, it is done!

Posted by Niran  | September 21, 2017 at 1:16PM | Reply

I have in the last 2 days reduced email from around 4500 to 331!

Posted by Josh A.  | September 21, 2017 at 12:43PM | Reply

I’ve been fairly good at managing my inbox thanks to Airmail 3 and integrations to Evernote (reference), Fantastical (Appointments), and Todoist (Waiting for Response, Take Action.) This reinforces some of the things I’ve been trying to accomplish but haven’t been able to describe and as an Operations VP I’m tempted to host an an email inbox challenge for my team.

Posted by Susan  | September 21, 2017 at 12:27PM | Reply

This I already do – yay! It’s getting BACK to the to-do list that needs some work.

Posted by Laura  | September 21, 2017 at 12:15PM | Reply

Wow! It is actually quite amazing how much you can get done in 30 minutes of focused time.

Posted by Myru  | September 21, 2017 at 11:48AM | Reply

Thank you for this great system in managing emails! Cleared my inbox in 20 minutes.

Posted by Jung  | September 21, 2017 at 11:44AM | Reply

Tho I have a pretty good set up for Inbox Zero in outlook, was badly behind. Over 2 hours didnt cut it. Even with easy trash items and the main category folders , it takes longest for me to file reference folders because I file into outlook folders not evernote, which my IT person keeps deleting from my add-ins.

Also for me, it’s helpful to sort by sender when I process email.

Posted by Dayna Flumerfelt  | September 21, 2017 at 11:05AM | Reply

I didn’t have quite enough emails for the full 30 minutes. I ended up more like 20 minutes instead. I’ve definitely found that intentional checking is definitely less stressful than random check/organize peppered throughout the day.

Posted by Mark Schollenberg  | September 21, 2017 at 10:48AM | Reply

30 minutes of email sorting done. Got through a lot of emails. Now I just need to deal with this massive to-do list.

Posted by Samuel  | September 21, 2017 at 10:34AM | Reply

It is indeed helpful to spend uninterrupted time working through email. Realized that my workflow was not helpful at all and my to-do list doesn’t support email callback. Very unhelpful! Time to learn a new way…

Posted by David  | September 21, 2017 at 10:29AM | Reply

Thanks! this actually worked better than I thought it would. Instead of 15x a day for 5 minutes, focused time really helped.

Posted by Shelly  | September 21, 2017 at 10:26AM | Reply

Between archiving yesterday and 30 minutes focused about 2/3 of mail is now gone.

Posted by Bob DeSilets  | September 21, 2017 at 10:00AM | Reply

My dedicated time went well. I made a huge dent in my inbox, and am ready for the next challenge!

Posted by Janeson  | September 21, 2017 at 9:21AM | Reply

The timer was a big help. I can’t believe how much I got done using the sorting and “filing” technique.

Posted by Kim  | September 21, 2017 at 8:58AM | Reply

I found an issue after having archived all my emails the day before, one of my mobile email apps didn’t sync correctly and put most of those emails I archived back into my inbox. I’m currently trying to figure out exactly which email app it is (I use a few depending on work/personal/iPhone/iPad). I did spend 30 minutes going through my new emails which was great because I was able to touch base with a new friend in a timely manner :)

Posted by jerry  | September 21, 2017 at 8:53AM | Reply

it took only about 15 minutes to get through my emails.

Posted by Katie  | September 21, 2017 at 7:45AM | Reply

Done!! I finished my day at inbox zero :)

I will say though …. I still checked my email more often than I’d like to! But it was better than the previous day!

Posted by Benjamin Marshan  | September 21, 2017 at 7:35AM | Reply

Only took about 25 mins to deal with everything today.

Posted by Anne Fry  | September 21, 2017 at 7:30AM | Reply

So I’ve finally got to inbox zero. I have been trying to do this for a month now. It was great to get the challenges each day to work through to achieve this.
Thank you.

Posted by Katie  | September 21, 2017 at 7:04AM | Reply

Did it. Took about 20 minutes which was great. I’m finding though that I’m having trouble actually sitting down with my task manager and giving those emails attention. I’m lucky that I’m mostly a stay at home mom so undone tasks don’t affect anything, but I’ll add emails to my task list because it has information I want to go through that pertains to my new business or information on a course that I’d like to investigate more.

Posted by Torsten  | September 21, 2017 at 5:12AM | Reply

a very good challenge, thank you!!!

Posted by M. K. Hassan  | September 21, 2017 at 3:06AM | Reply

Great…. It’s managed in less than 20 minutes.

Posted by Susanna  | September 21, 2017 at 2:42AM | Reply

done! Haven’t had an empty box for a long time!

Posted by Dan Roberson  | September 21, 2017 at 2:10AM | Reply

One pomodoro down and I was even able to process for a few in the archives. I managed to stay out of the inbox most of the day with only three additional email sessions!

Posted by Bob  | September 21, 2017 at 1:08AM | Reply

My first 30 minutes period came to an end rather quickly. It was awkward, but I got the hang of the set time. On my third 30 minute exercise of the day, I enjoyed the GTD moments.

Posted by Milan  | September 21, 2017 at 1:03AM | Reply

Several asked for an answer immediately (Archive), one went to Todoist. I used SaneBox so others only requested a quick review. In References (Evernote) and Delete. 10 minutes. There is still the problem of why I do this 30 times per day :(.

Posted by Sanjay  | September 20, 2017 at 11:37PM | Reply

Checked email only 4 time today. Did not take more than 20 minutes to sift through the emails at end of the day. Thanks, Asian Efficiency- I knew this was possible, but did not have the regimented push to implement the email processing workflow. Thanks to you, I have it, at least for now!

Posted by Ruksana  | September 20, 2017 at 11:15PM | Reply

I am almost always doing this but like the others said it is more an issue of not checking out the emails all the time

Posted by Ruksana  | September 20, 2017 at 11:13PM | Reply

I am almost always doing this but like many others the issue is how to stop checking and processing so often

Posted by James  | September 20, 2017 at 10:56PM | Reply

It feels good to designate a specific amount of time to deal with email, but also know that time has a limit on it.

Posted by Cheryl  | September 20, 2017 at 10:45PM | Reply

Done – but if its 10:45 at night, maybe it’s not my email that’s the issue….

Posted by Jonathan  | September 20, 2017 at 10:42PM | Reply

This method works very well with Omnifocus as a task manager. Just forward emails into omnifocus et voilà.

Posted by Paul L  | September 20, 2017 at 10:06PM | Reply

Only took ~15 min to get through my Inbox, since I’ve been following the AE workflow for ~2 weeks now.

Posted by Brian Bohley  | September 20, 2017 at 10:05PM | Reply

Done. It didn’t take 30 minutes to process my inbox down to zero but the trick will be actually completing the tasks/projects they created. I am looking forward to tomorrow’s challenge.

Posted by Tara W  | September 20, 2017 at 10:02PM | Reply

This is a huge help in my personal and professional emails. I was able to complete this for my work email. I plan to begin on my personal emails tomorrow by following the same time limits for each email address. I have Evernote, but have not used it in this manner in the past. I am excited to see what tomorrow will bring!

Posted by John  | September 20, 2017 at 9:52PM | Reply

Newsletters are a challenge to quick processing. Normally I ignore them , but I might miss out on some valuable content. I need to unsubscribe from lists that are no longer relevant to me. Will this be another part of the challenge perhaps?.

Posted by Steve Page  | September 20, 2017 at 9:08PM | Reply

It went well…hard to do I took 30 mins and was almost at ‘inbox zero’ so spent another 10 and it was done. Of course Ive been out of the office for 2 hours and inbox is at 14 .

I’ll worry about them tomorrow.

Thanx for the challenge!!!

Posted by Rob  | September 20, 2017 at 8:52PM | Reply

Done! Now gotta keep to 2x per day of focus.

Posted by Bob Wollyung  | September 20, 2017 at 8:50PM | Reply

Cranked through them for 30 minutes tonight. Delete, archive, task manager (omnifocus), read later (instapaper), reference (evernote) or act. Cleared a few days of email back up in one session.

Posted by Joshua B Church  | September 20, 2017 at 8:00PM | Reply

Inbox zero. :-)

Posted by Shay  | September 20, 2017 at 7:58PM | Reply

Done, I’m getting ready to be off for a few days and am really working to get through my emails. This challenge had been helpful in remembering not to get stuck on each email, but to go through systematically and quickly.

Posted by Duncan  | September 20, 2017 at 7:55PM | Reply

30 minutes of time dedicated to processing emails = 3 weeks worth of email processed. Seems to me it’s the dedicated time that makes the focus better.

Posted by Jarrod  | September 20, 2017 at 7:48PM | Reply

What a great feeling it was to only have a couple of emails from over night, i made sure i was at zero before leaving work yesterday, and only a couple of minutes to clear to zero again. I used the remainder of the 30 mins processing the emails that i moved to the archive folder on day 1. I also changed the start up view when i go in to Outlook to be the calendar, not my inbox – out of sight, out of mind – seems to make it easier to not check.

Posted by Carolina  | September 20, 2017 at 7:47PM | Reply

20 minutes and i was done

Posted by Pat L  | September 20, 2017 at 7:46PM | Reply

Todd, I had the same problem before. Inbox zeroing in 30 mins isn’t hard…what’s an addicting habit is opening your email XX a day. I use the Focus app to block out Gmail and Airmail app until I can slowly get it down to less than 5x a day. Still working on my discipline to get it down to 2x a day mark!

Posted by Pat L  | September 20, 2017 at 7:39PM | Reply

I use Vitamin-R app on my Mac and set my timer to 30 minutes. I also use AirMail app to handle both business and personal email. Any task related items that can’t be finished in 2 minutes, I quickly send the task from AirMail to OmniFocus. Instead of forwarding reference emails to Evernote, I either Starred or Memo (more important) the email. I think this is more efficient and AirMail search feature is fast and pretty good. According to RescueTime, I spent 26 minutes today on email and only check 2x so far. :)

Posted by Vickie Ruggiero  | September 20, 2017 at 7:31PM | Reply

Made a big dent in a 30 minute block. Felt good to bulk process the non-urgent stuff that comes in.

Posted by Kacy McKibben  | September 20, 2017 at 7:21PM | Reply

For the first time ever, I am seeing “No new mail!” at the top of my inbox because I have NOTHING in my inbox!!

Posted by Antonio  | September 20, 2017 at 6:58PM | Reply

Done, but I still have a lot work ahead to get to inbox 0. But I will get there one day!!

Posted by Jeffrey  | September 20, 2017 at 6:57PM | Reply

30 minutes down.

Posted by Edgar  | September 20, 2017 at 6:47PM | Reply

Absolutely helped to have a Timer. It put pressure on me to be efficient but it also set aside a given amount of time to check email.

Posted by Richard Jones  | September 20, 2017 at 6:41PM | Reply

I’ve been keeping my inbox pretty lean, so this only took 10 minutes to process it all.

Posted by Matthew Austin  | September 20, 2017 at 6:28PM | Reply

I kind of enjoy getting to the end of the day and seeing my inbox as a little game. How quickly can I process those emails (often up to 100) in a meaningful way. I like it that I can process those 100 emails and end up with usually around 10 to-dos, which I can usually do the next day in less than an hour.

Posted by Jim  | September 20, 2017 at 6:18PM | Reply

Wow. this is going to take some dedication, but it feels good to make progress. The 30 minutes every day is the only way to continue to move forward. Thanks

Posted by Joe Powers  | September 20, 2017 at 6:03PM | Reply

Enjoying this challenge greatly. The email inbox is down to zero, but that means that the task list is overflowing. I suppose the advantage is that it’s a lot easier to prioritize tasks than emails.

Posted by LInda Maye Adams  | September 20, 2017 at 5:51PM | Reply

Did the 30 minutes…made a small dent in it. Not caught up…more came in.

Posted by Jim  | September 20, 2017 at 5:47PM | Reply

Nice to know I only had to do e-mail for 30 minutes and be done…if only I could find a way to remember all the e-mails I put into my reference file

Posted by Richard  | September 20, 2017 at 5:45PM | Reply

When reading this, it feels obvious, but then I realized that this sort of thought process and organizing method was something I never did and that I wouldn’t be having my problem now if I had been doing it all along. Glad I did this challenge.

Posted by marian phillips  | September 20, 2017 at 5:41PM | Reply

Did two 30 minute sessions and I’m still processing the ones where I need to provide a quote or other information. Better than usual.

Posted by Michael  | September 20, 2017 at 5:23PM | Reply

Achieving inbox zero wasn’t a problem for me. Been sending ref emails to Evernote for a while now. The biggest problem is still the length of time and the number of times spent checking email.

Posted by Tamika Sykes  | September 20, 2017 at 5:03PM | Reply

I have been an zero-inbox for a while however I do fall off the wagon especially when I have been away from the office for court and come back to a gazillion emails. I have done all the steps above except for 1. I did not consistently add it to my to-do list task. Instead, I created a quick rule that would send emails to a designated folder based on 3 categories: Urgent- Do Today, Waiting for Response (response would take more than 2 mins) and Respond when possible (I aimed for end of the week). My poor “waiting for response” and “when possible do” emails -were almost forgotten because out of sight out of mind. Sidenote: I have learn a lot of emails are not that important . I also put too much in my Urgent file so that I am always working in this category. I think making sure I add them as tasks will help me stay on top of my “Action folder-the To-do Inbox”. I use my case management task list. I presume with the love for Omnifocus no one is reccomending using Outlook’s task list?

Posted by anthony j  | September 20, 2017 at 4:29PM | Reply

inbox not too out of. on trip currently so only took 12 minutes to process this morning. Using Airmail so swipes to Omnifocus big game changer

Posted by Teejay  | September 20, 2017 at 4:28PM | Reply

Woah … an empty inbox! I’d forgotten what that looks like. :)

Posted by Diana  | September 20, 2017 at 4:02PM | Reply

Took less than 30 minutes to process my inbox today.

Posted by Tyler  | September 20, 2017 at 3:59PM | Reply

Almost finished it all in 30 minutes.

Posted by Andrea  | September 20, 2017 at 3:47PM | Reply

10 minutes twice a day are enough for me now. Most of my work is “live” with my manufacturing team.

Posted by Sonya  | September 20, 2017 at 3:42PM | Reply

30 minutes done. Still not where I need to be. It grows faster than I can process.

Posted by Ted martin  | September 20, 2017 at 3:41PM | Reply

I got caught up in 17 minutes!

Posted by CBK  | September 20, 2017 at 3:39PM | Reply

Able clear out some things that had been lingering. The focused time was productive. Need to keep working and eliminate some more unnecessary emails!

Posted by Dani Smith  | September 20, 2017 at 3:37PM | Reply

It took 25 minutes, but is clear. Does it make anyone else nervous to archive? It feels like if I can’t see it, than it must not exist…

Posted by Chris Williams  | September 20, 2017 at 3:37PM | Reply

Didn’t process any email until I set the timer for 30 minutes. Was able to process all of my email in that short time frame. It seemed like I was able to handle email with a considerably higher rate of efficiency because I was in email mode for the entire window of time. This was such a different experience from my normal process of coming in and out of email all day long.

Posted by Dani Smtih  | September 20, 2017 at 3:36PM | Reply

It took 25 minutes, but is clear. Does it make anyone else nervous to archive? It feels like if I can’t see it, than it must not exist…

Posted by Dani Smtih  | September 20, 2017 at 3:35PM | Reply

It took 25 minutes, but is clear.

Posted by Mike Burch  | September 20, 2017 at 3:34PM | Reply

ios 11 is great for dragging and dropping emails onto the calendar or into Omnifocus! Mailbox is empty with 28 minutes of processing. Check it twice a day at 10 and 4!

Posted by Patricia  | September 20, 2017 at 3:21PM | Reply

Managed to get through the inbox relatively quickly, because I do reach Inbox Zero about once a month. The bulk of the emails is not too bad to process, but somehow there’s always a few (usually between 2 and 5 mails) that I don’t know what to do with. They seem to live in my inbox… I forwarded them to Omnifocus and archived them. Scary! Hopefully that was the answer!

Posted by Sonya  | September 20, 2017 at 3:03PM | Reply

Completed going through emails in thirty minutes . A couple will take some time. Will attack those this afternoon. for ongoing basis, key is to establish a new habit of periodically checking email and allowing more “deep” work to be done.

Posted by Christine N  | September 20, 2017 at 2:38PM | Reply

Done! I had definitely been procrastinating on some of the emails in my inbox and just had to face them. Down to the last four that I will deal with this afternoon. Thanks.

Posted by Josh Click  | September 20, 2017 at 2:32PM | Reply

Cleared my inbox in 10 minutes

Posted by Linh  | September 20, 2017 at 2:17PM | Reply

Less than 30 mins!

Posted by Jonathan Wheeler  | September 20, 2017 at 1:55PM | Reply

Processing email usually takes me 10 minutes/day. I hit unsubscribe pretty religiously, and most conversations that my coworkers have in email, I try to re-route to phone or in-person.

Posted by Lee Anne Detzel  | September 20, 2017 at 1:33PM | Reply

30 minutes wasn’t enough to get my inbox to zero but it was helpful. The major takeaway from this challenge for me is that emails can generate To Do list items. I think this is why I have so many unaddressed emails — maybe I’ve been using my inbox as a To Do list instead of adding action items from email on to To Do. Feels good to move those items out of my inbox and on to my Trello boards.

Posted by Anthony Gabriel  | September 20, 2017 at 1:24PM | Reply

Processed for 30 minutes. Hard to stay focused on it the whole time as many of the emails I get are unclear as to what they want me to do with it. But good to get them out of the inbox.

Posted by Sara  | September 20, 2017 at 1:14PM | Reply

Done in less than 30 mins since I’m currently at inbox zero (staying there is the challenge). I use Sanebox to manage my email, so my ritual also involves clearing as much of the dependent folders as possible (quickly scan and trash stuff in the SaneMarketing folder I created, read/file/delete stuff in SaneLater if time allows). That’s assuming I have time to do more than first deal with what ended up in the Inbox proper.

Posted by DivaJo  | September 20, 2017 at 1:06PM | Reply

Inbox Zero done. It will be difficult to keep up when I go on vacation next month for three weeks and have no email/wifi available unless I go the tavern. I guess I could always have a wakeup Bloody Mary every morning. Hmmm — a good partner with the Pomodoro though. But I may have a different problem when I return home.

Posted by KG  | September 20, 2017 at 12:59PM | Reply

The timer is a great idea to help me get into the habit of limiting time with email and getting feel for it! Love all your other suggestions, too. Thanks.

Posted by Joe P.  | September 20, 2017 at 12:58PM | Reply

30 minute block completed and all emails that came in overnight have been processed.

Posted by MIke  | September 20, 2017 at 12:57PM | Reply

30 minutes knocked off about half of the emails that came in overnight. Scheduled another block this afternoon.

Posted by Diane Thompson  | September 20, 2017 at 12:51PM | Reply

It took less than 30 minutes to process the email but I have a longer to do list.

Posted by Mlg  | September 20, 2017 at 12:48PM | Reply

2 Pomodoros to get through the email in my inbox. Now to inbox zero!

Posted by Ellen G  | September 20, 2017 at 12:19PM | Reply

30 minutes was just a start, but a good start. Setting the timer for another 30 minutes (by then they should all be done.)

Posted by Sam  | September 20, 2017 at 12:17PM | Reply

ok working in outlook a bit different. Of course I also have gmail for more personal. Created a monster. Thanks for helping.

Posted by Alexander Malmström  | September 20, 2017 at 12:13PM | Reply

This little exercise really shows how many emails you get in a day. I always do a zero inbox before I get home for the day so 30 minutes was a bit much for me.

Posted by Mary  | September 20, 2017 at 11:58AM | Reply

It took me a little over 20 minutes to process my personal inbox. One of my biggest tasks is going to be unsubscribing from all ads/sales/promos, etc. that I have been meaning to do. Still have to work on that work inbox though. So happy to have found this challenge and be working toward inbox zero in small chunks!

Posted by Steven  | September 20, 2017 at 11:56AM | Reply

Hard to do it in 30 min or less and now let’s see how it works with all that generated tasks.

Posted by Jessica  | September 20, 2017 at 11:53AM | Reply

I already stay at or near Inbox Zero so didn’t need 30 minutes to process, but the “cheat sheet” of where emails should go will be helpful next time. Like others have said, my biggest issue is checking email constantly JUST IN CASE something new has come in. Dopamine hit, I guess.

Posted by Simon  | September 20, 2017 at 11:52AM | Reply

Well, I’ve already have a similar algorithm – quick replies, trash it, etc. My problem has been not to process the entire Inbox within 30 minutes, but dozens of e-mails piling up in my “Memo” folder and “To Do” Folder meant for later processing, because I simply don’t clean them up often enough. And then it can take half a day or even longer to get rid of them (filing in Evernote, creating Omnifocus tasks or preparing longer email answers right away). This is what I have to figure out and resolve asap. Otherwise, I like the 30-minute role for cleaning my Inbox.

Posted by Alice Ferris  | September 20, 2017 at 11:48AM | Reply

Unsubscribed to about 2 dozen email newsletters and processed my daily mail! Found a bunch that weren’t even addressed to me, but to former employees–my email is the catch all, so I didn’t even notice they weren’t to me until today. Yay!

Posted by Matt Vanderpol  | September 20, 2017 at 11:43AM | Reply

I process email a few times a day and try to always get down to Inbox Zero. I find that if I first go through and delete the easy stuff then the actionable stuff doesn’t feel as big because there are fewer messages.

Having a keyboard action to add emails to my todo list is a big help in making that flow smoothly.

I process my email inbox before my todo inbox so I frequently don’t even assign the emails to projects in email processing. That helps keep the email processing lighter and keeps my context focused on actually “do, delegate, defer” rather than how it fits into a particular project or activity.

Posted by Tim Bauer  | September 20, 2017 at 11:40AM | Reply

It felt strange being mindful and intentional with an activity I associate with taking me away from being mindful and intentional but I got a crap ton of email done.

Posted by Stewart Marshall  | September 20, 2017 at 11:32AM | Reply

Email triage is great – having a client that integrates with your task manager and Evernote is important. Also emailing into Evernote and the task manager by forwarding is possible!

Posted by Kristen Smith  | September 20, 2017 at 11:22AM | Reply

It took me about 25 minutes to get back to Inbox Zero. I try to get back to zero daily, but I did have a couple of emails in my inbox left over from yesterday.

I’ve found that one of the most important things for me is that—when I add things to my to-do list from my inbox—I keep a separate column where I can input the name of any associated email threads. That way I know I can easily dig them out of my archive when I go to follow up, and I’m not afraid of losing anything.

The most difficult part for me is determining ahead of time whether an email response will take less than two minutes. I often think that it will… but then it takes longer. And if I set a timer, I get annoyed because I just want to get it done and cross it off of my list!

Posted by Rich Beynon  | September 20, 2017 at 11:13AM | Reply

My problem is that I have my email open all the time. I need to get better at closing it down and only checking it a limited number of times a day. I want to be responsive to my employees and customers, but I really don’t need to be as available to them as I currently am.

Posted by Nathan Lowrie  | September 20, 2017 at 11:09AM | Reply

My email inboxes are now at zero. Once the full system is in place it becomes easy. I ended up processing for 27 minutes today.

Posted by Deirdre S  | September 20, 2017 at 11:08AM | Reply

Inbox Zero achieved but I agree with many above. Next part is to successfully, and timely, process those tasks I just generated!

Posted by Alex Ferrero  | September 20, 2017 at 11:01AM | Reply

Still in the onboarding phase of a new job, processing email is more meticulous than it’s been in the past. This was a good way to break up the day a bit and get some processing done, though.

Posted by AndyC  | September 20, 2017 at 10:59AM | Reply

I set about sorting my emails a few years back. Archived and chopped a lot out and now keep on top of it every day. Amazes me how many people still have massive numbers of mail in their inboxes.

Posted by Chris Davidson  | September 20, 2017 at 10:56AM | Reply

Thanks to some of the work I did on days one and two, I spent ~20 mins this morning on email inbox and it is now down to zero. All action items now captured in OF and everything else archived or trashed.

Posted by Tim Howell  | September 20, 2017 at 10:56AM | Reply

My easy to remember sort method:
Do it now / Do it later (2 min rule or Omnifocus)
Diarise it (Calendar events)
Documents or Details (Reference items straight to Evernote with auto notebook and tag feature)
Delegate it (can follow that up in Omnifocus with the right perspectives!)
Delete it
It takes only a few seconds to determine where each email goes – most can be forwarded direct to Omnifocus, Evernote and calendar app with a few keystrokes – roll on inbox zero!

Posted by Dave  | September 20, 2017 at 10:53AM | Reply

Finished in about 15 minutes. Like Mat posted, it’s good to keep a good email habit persistently. I haven’t been perfect, thus 15 minutes instead of 5. But that’s better than 30 minutes and not feeling done. Even in that 5 minutes, I felt a lot of relief addressing some small things I should’ve done days ago, getting to-dos out of my email and where they belong, and adding dates to my calendar.

Posted by Allan Miller  | September 20, 2017 at 10:51AM | Reply

Thirty minutes and the inbox is clear – that felt really effective – appreciate the tips

Posted by rusty  | September 20, 2017 at 10:46AM | Reply

30 minutes done, still alot more to do

Posted by Faith A.  | September 20, 2017 at 10:38AM | Reply

Didn’t take me as long to process my email as I thought, only about 20 minutes. My to-do list seems to be a mile long, but at least I’m not afraid that something important is sitting in my inbox and being ignored.

Posted by Mat  | September 20, 2017 at 10:26AM | Reply

Not much to burn there. My Inbox goes to zero in below 5 minutes. For all who are going through a struggle with this right now in the challenge: It’s a good feeling to do this challenge and then keep the habit persistently.

I agree with David Mullens- the todo list would be the REAL challenge ;-)

Posted by James  | September 20, 2017 at 10:22AM | Reply

I am now thinking about revising my current file structure in outlook. Doing this made me realize I cannot easiy retrieve information in the current system.

Posted by Todd  | September 20, 2017 at 10:20AM | Reply

Processing in 30 min or less wasn’t a problem since I’ve been doing inbox zero for a while now. Still my biggest obstacle will be not checking email 25 more times today.

Posted by David Mullens  | September 20, 2017 at 10:15AM | Reply

Can do a lot of email in 30 minutes…although…I wonder how long it will take me to empty out my “to-do” list now ;) It is nice not having to check email all the time.

Posted by Steve Woodfield  | September 20, 2017 at 9:22AM | Reply

Managed to burn through a lot of email in 30 minutes. Still much more to do though, to get on top of it. Now the challenge is to keep away from email for the rest of the day!

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