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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.)

brent's picture

I think that Sonia Simone...

I think that Sonia Simone let the cat out of the bag by saying how you can usefully use your email program to Organise your emails rather than just Keep them. Not ALL of your emails have any future action, are waiting on some event or are useful for reference... why dump them all in the same pile? Why dump them into 50 identical piles? You should put each email into the pile it deserves to be in - actionable, waiting, reference, useless... then ACTION the actionable emails, PUSH the waiting emails, put the references in a place you will REFER to and give your life meaning and purpose by destroying the useless ones.

You don't need them, they need you. Kill them.

For @Followups I find it useful to prepend the message header with 'fu' then send it to myself and filter it into the @Followups folder - possibly using a delayed send (easy to find T.B. extension) so that I get the reminder to followup up on the right day - rather than just have a little nagger in the system saying "You really ought to follow this up with this person some time." (My boss, bless his socks, does the same and he just resends his 'fu' emails out periodically [and, I suspect, automatically] until he gets a response.]

I don't think you should cringe about archiving old emails - anything non-current (or non-potentially-current) only serves as a distraction. Always look to the future.

If something's archived, then it's gone but retrievable - IT can no longer distract YOU from [achieving world domination]; the only interaction you will ever have with again is if YOU want IT. If something sits in your Inbox (any of your inboxes) that means that you fully intend to get some future value out of it. If you go through the Inbox once and leave it there you've committed a small sin. If you go through again, then again, and five times more and it's still there then you have to be honest with yourself and say "I actually have NO intention of using this. I must kill it before it kills me."

The goal is to be able to look at a group of emails and see only useful, actionable, current information that you can be using right now to be making your life better - everything else is slowing you down.

(sorry for criminally long post)




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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