43 Folders

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43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Fresh Start: The Email DMZ

Like a lot of the best fresh starts, this one's a total psych-out; also, like most of the best ones, you won't believe how well it works until you actually try it for yourself.

  1. Open your email program and create a new folder called "DMZ"
  2. Go to your email inbox and Select All
    • You might alternatively choose all email older than n days
  3. Drag those emails from your inbox into the DMZ folder
  4. Go, and sin no more.

Is this the email equivalent of covering your ears and singing loudly? Not really. You still need to deal with all the emails in your DMZ folder (personally I'd recommended "archiving" anything older than 21 days), but, most importantly, you're drawing a line in the sand. You're saying "Okay, starting this minute I quit letting 'being behind' stop me from making good decisions now and going forward." Hence the "fresh start." Get it? Tomorrow morning you arrive to a spanking fresh inbox and the chance to start anew. Of course, using your fresh start to develop an actual new habit is entirely optional, but it's certainly more reachable than ever now, right? Right.

Basically, this works at accomplishing the one thing you need more than anything else right now: to stop digging.

Think about it: how much stuff in your life has gotten unmanageable simply because you decided at some point that you were too behind to ever make a difference? More than anything you need a way to recover these projects from the brink -- to find the handle that lets you stop making it worse and start seeing a way back toward daylight.

(On another day, I'll tell you my super-secret way of paring down the biggest DMZ folder to empty in 15 minutes.)

Scott Kingery's picture

I do something similar but...

I do something similar but instead of calling the folder DMZ I create a folder called "Dump mm/dd/yyyy" where the mm/dd/yyyy is a date 3 months or so from now (whever you feel comfortable with). Tnen I just go in and delete them or archive them as I feel on that date. That way the mail is there for a search during the intervening time frame and if I have to search for something I then move it into a folder for future reference and to avoid the pending dump. Personally I could almost get away with having all email come in marked for deletion and then I'd unmark it if it was worth anything.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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