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Recently, I’ve been accused of cheating at Inbox Zero, since although I’ve got no email in my Inbox, I have twenty to thirty threads marked down as things that need reading or following-up on.

To these accusations, I have only one thing to say: you’re doing it wrong.

Inbox Zero is a method, not a creed. It’s not even very much of a goal. It’s a system that says:

  • put all of your unprocessed stuff (in this case, email) in one place (your inbox), 
  • go through that pile of stuff one at a time
  • make a decision about what you need to do about it (e.g., “nothing”, “reply”, “actually read it”)
  • record the results of that decision (put it in a folder; tag it)
  • remove the thing from the pile

Or rather, it’s a succinct way of talking about how to apply GTD principles to email.

The “Zero” refers to the size of that pile of unprocessed stuff, not the number of things on your todo list.

If you don’t have three hours spare to read GTD, you really ought to spend one hour watching Merlin Mann’s video on Inbox Zero.