As I wrote yesterday's post, I went back to Merlin Mann's articles on inbox zero for the first time in a while. It's almost ten years since he coined the term, but, given the ubiquity of email, his suggestions remain relevant.

The only way we 'solve' email is by thinking before we hit send. Until then, Mann's ideas might help us cope.

First, not all email messages are created equal. In fact, understanding that a handful of messages in any given day are far more important and timely than all of the others combined is perhaps the most important place to start if you ever want to see your inbox fit onto one screen again.

You have no control over the world’s demands on your time and attention, yet you are the single person who has any choice over how you deal with it.
The first and most workmanlike filter in your email processing scheme must involve very quickly deciding whether a given message can be deleted or archived immediately upon receipt...[O]nce you can reduce the amount of hay in your particular stack, the needles start revealing themselves like shiny little diamonds. Kill junk, kill pseudo-junk, and then kill all the stuff you won’t ever respond to. Whatever’s left is yours to return. That’s where your actual, useful job lives.
Ask a few escalating questions about each email message in [your] inbox

1. What does this message mean to me, and why do I care?
2. What action, if any, does this message require of me?
3. What’s the most elegant way to close out this message and the nested action it contains?

Not very earth-shattering stuff until you consider how much of the [rubbish] in your own inbox may never have been subjected to these simple filters.

Fifty percent or more of your mail may not make it past the first question: delete. A majority of the remainder may not make it past the second (beyond perhaps a one- or two-line reply).’ll eventually get really fast at dispensing the rest with quick application of the third.