30 Days of Inbox Zero. How I Did it.

I get on the order of several hundred e-mails a day. For the past 40 days, I’ve hit #inboxzero every, single day with relatively minimal effort. I’d say on average I spend less than an hour a day tending to e-mail. As recently as two months ago I had thousands of unread e-mails in my inbox. As I write this, I have zero. Here’s how I did it.

One more essential, but indirect tool has been the habit-forming psychology of “not breaking the chain” of reaching inbox zero. Once you hit a few days in a row, the loss aversion of not breaking the chain becomes a powerful motivator to keep going. About 30 days in I started using the iPhone app, Lift, which was designed for this exact purpose. (By the way, other active streaks that I owe to this approach include 22 days in a row of walking more than 10,000 steps, tracked on a FitBit, and 30 days in a row of writing in a gratitude journal).

The only downside of this journey has been, at times, I’ve become overly focused on hitting inbox zero, to the extent that it’s distracted from me from more important uses of my time. That said, I’m trying to institute three new practices to curb this:

So far, I’ve found it very hard to limit my e-mail checking to twice per day, but removing email from my phone has certainly helped. For urgent communication, I can still be reached by phone, SMS, or HipChat.

Tackling e-mail has been a hard, but rewarding challenge. It’s made me a better founder, a better manager, and even a better friend.

Please share your e-mail hacks with me in the discussion over on Hacker News or on Twitter - I’m @wxmn.

After you take back control of your inbox, you should use that newfound extra time to have fun and be more interesting by going on a Grouper :)


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