Inspired by my friend Ashima's recent finds on the Wayback Machine, I searched for one of the first websites I built. It was 1996 or 1997. I was 12 and obsessed with online zines and AOL message boards. I had created my own zine, which focused on advice for and by kids. It was called Problems & Solutions (so creative), and it was the very vanilla precursor to my edgier zine in high school, which I called “damsel” — lol. I wish I could find the archives of the zines themselves, but this website is still a gem (and the funky characters working as dividers appeared as dots and squares back in the day, for what it's worth): http://web.archive.org/web/20010725144630/http://members.aol.com/emily28/
I confess that I really do know the secret (for me). And it’s decidedly simple:
1. Sign up for the most well-designed to do list ever: Teux Deux. Get the iPhone app while you’re at it.
2. Marvel at the beauty of dragging and dropping your to do list items and prioritizing your life with a swipe of your precious little fingertip.
3. Discover that you keep most emails in your inbox because you have to *do* something with them… inevitably you are always two or three steps away from simply replying, which in turn (somehow) equates to always being 385 emails away from inbox zero.
4. Start adding those reply steps/projects to Teux Deux and booting them out of your inbox. If a client sends you content for a brochure you’re writing, it does not belong in your inbox. It’s an asset that can be found later. (This is the trick: thinking of your inbox as a magical library where people submit new stories and content every single day.)
5. Archive the associated email. (Assuming you’ve already discovered the power of Gmail.)
6. Watch your inbox count dwindle. And thanks to Teux Deux’s ability to effortlessly add and shift line items around, you will brainhack your way to email activity that is a tool for *making stuff happen* instead of creating more emails. Suddenly you’ll manage your responses and email activity based on your actual capacity and the actual priority of the project. The “just power through” emailpalooza lunch break disappears.
7. When an item on Teux Deux does relate to an email, search your Gmail archives, find related email (like looking up the resource you need in a library), and as the cool kids say, “Git er done.”
And that, my friends, is how I’ve been at inbox zero for almost a week.