Gmail does a pretty good job of categorizing your messages. You can train it to do better.
Move messages that you must review, respond to, or take action upon to the Primary tab.
Routinely unsubscribe from notifications and newsletters you don’t read. Some senders let you cut the frequency from daily to weekly or monthly.
Stop using your email as a holding pen for I should do’s and somedays.Me, thinking to myself 🙂
My email inbox was a bottomless pile of messages seen and considered but not resolved. Having so many small choices increased my stress and reduced my ability to get things done.
Then, about a month or so ago, I heard “inbox zero” mentioned. I intuitively grasped the concept and set about finding a better way to process my email that reduces my effort, stress, and mess. It’s most obvious feature is that you have zero emails in you inbox.
Now (Feb 20th) I’ve been doing this for over a month and have gotten faster and better at it. Here’s my updated system, which I call zero inbox.
Before you practice zero inbox, train Gmail to sort your messages.
When you’re done every message should be deleted or archive. Your inbox should be empty.
It helps to know what your focus/responsibilities/goals/interests are. Don’t waste time on messages that fall outside of these. Don’t get sucked into email threads that don’t concern you or your work.
However, this new approach has created a new problem: a ballooning to-do list. Now, I must find a better way manage these tasks.
|More urgent||Less Urgent|
|More important||Do it now||Schedule it soon|
|Less important||Divide & conquer, or delegate||Delete it, say “No,” or toss|
it in the “someday” folder
I’ll let you know how it goes.
Recently, I wrote about zero inbox, my hack for getting rid of email stress and mess. I also mentioned that it depends on having a to-do list that can link back to your email messages.
A few years ago, I started using the free version of Todoist, an elegant and dependable app developed by a Germany-based software company. I was so pleased that I upgraded a year or so ago to their Premium version for $3/mo, billed annually.
Getting the most out of my to-do list requires a little skill and effort. Here’s how I add tasks to todoist:
Recently, I started practicing zero inbox. I didn’t read any specific how-to articles or books, I just implemented it based on these two principles:
A quick search for “zero inbox” turned up this article and a 2007 Google TechTalks video on YouTube featuring Merlin Mann:
Merlin’s approach is a more nuanced (and probably more efficient) than mine. My approach is simpler:
This system works for me. It reduces my stress, mess, and effort.
Remote work and the current health crisis has made Silicon Valley obsolete. Companies and workers are moving away in droves. Will they find a new place like Silicon Valley?
Yes and No. The end of the health crisis will enable a resumption of office work. However, having invested in and adopted remote work, organizations that embrace a hybrid remote+office business model will be more successful. New “Silicon Valleys” are forming at the optimal balance points of virtual and geographic communities.
Note: This personal essay/post is definitely a work in progress (WIP). I am sharing this early version to get feedback and will continue making updates over time. Please feel free to comment and contribute your thoughts.
The future is already here; it’s just not evenly distributed.Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media
I’m reading They Can’t Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough – As a tech era draws to an end, more workers and companies are packing up. What comes next? in the New York Times.
Great article. But I can’t get over the irony that so many of the interviewees are trying to recreate a Silicon Valley in Austin, Miami, Tallinn, or Topeka. Don’t you get it, with remote work, you will never find another place like Silicon Valley.
In the Times’ article, John Gardner, founder and CEO of Kickoff, complains about the Bay Area:
But right now it’s just like: What else can God and the world and government come up with to make the [Bay Area] less livable?John Gardner in “They Can’t Leave the Bay Area Fast Enough“, The New York Times, January 14, 2021
This was probably just one phrase out of a longer conversation with the journalist, Nellie Bowles, but it’s ironic that he points a blaming finger outward.
Entrepreneurs and tech workers like John and I absolutely flocked to the Bay Area to cash in on a mind-boggling inflow of venture capital, ballooning salaries, skyrocketing real-estate prices, and the occasional unicorn startup. We were the primary drivers of the nosebleed rents, million dollar bungalows, and soul-crushing commutes.
However, that stampede had a silver lining: We created the problems and started solving the problems we had created: We created the technology and culture that enabled remote work. By 2020, these innovations had become a metaphorical salt dome beneath the paradigm of work based on physical proximity.
Communications technologies transformed how and where businesses could operate.
New technologies appear decades before they and replace old ones and change paradigms.
In the 1860‘s, transatlantic and transcontinental telegraph enabled organizations in urban centers, like large banks, to open branches in other major cities.
By the 1970‘s, multinational organizations were using telephone, teletype, and jet courier services to communicate with and operate far-flung branches in cities, towns, and hamlets around the world.
Finally, the late 1980‘s saw an exodus of large corporations moving their headquarters out of high-priced central business districts. For example, following similar moves by Texaco, Mobil and J.C. Penney, Exxon closed its headquarters in The Rockefeller Center on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, and relocated it to Dallas Texas.
the Dallas area offered the best combination of factors from the standpoint of our employees’ personal and professional lives and from an overall business standpoint.Exxon Chairman, Lawrence B. Rawl, “Exxon Will Move Its Headquarters to Texas,” James Barron, New York Times, October 27th, 1989).
Why North Texas? Because this move brought Exxon back to the heartland of America’s oil/energy industry: Oklahoma, Texas, and the Gulf Coast. Many of its employees were from these regions. Some of them found living in New York expensive and hard on their families. By returning, Exxon saved a bundle on real-estate and relocation expenses, and gained better access to a labor pool that had industry experience.
Similarly, the communications and computing revolutions had a transformative effect on individuals.
In the mid-to-late 1990’s, the first dot-com boom made Bay Area real estate prices explode. Many tech and office workers had moved to more affordable areas an hour or more from the offices where they worked. And they spent hours commuting daily back into those urban centers, where they worked at a computer. Many of us had a flashbulb moment: While installing 56k dial-up modems in our home computers or stuck in traffic during an expensive 2 hour bus ride to San Francisco we asked, “can I just work from my computer at home? And the answer was…“No. Not yet.”
Between 2000 to 2020, many elements came together to enable remote work:
But that wasn’t enough.
The current pandemic is the forcing function that has normalized remote work. Now many organizations have implemented remote work across the board. Employees have embraced it.
It would be an exaggeration to say “There’s no going back. The toothpaste is out of the tube. The worms are out of the can. (Who has ever opened a real can of worms?!) Most organizations still own the physical office space they had before the crisis. When we find a way to do it safely, if the vaccines are successful, we will be able to resume working in our offices.
I’m not an economist, but I’d guess that:
And then what?
These costs and benefits will include housing, quality of life, taxes, access to health care, the quality and speed of internet connections, business and personal taxes, and possible regional specializations based on legacy industries.
It is more important than ever to participate in virtual professional communities, hone your skills, and become indispensable and for your unique blend of skills.
As a technical writer, I’m accustomed to telling users what to do using imperative phrases such as “do this or do that.” More recently, in my tech docs, I’ve adopted the practice of directly addressing the user by saying “you.” Many organizations have embraced this practice because it improves comprehension and establishes a warmer relationship with
the user you, the reader.
In this personal blog, telling you what to do feels arrogant and high-handed. Instead, I want to move things further along that continuum of trust and familiarity. You know what’s best for you. If you find something meaningful in what I share, you’ll find a way to use it. If I still use imperative phrases, I do it out of habit and because that how I tell myself to do things.
When I’m talking to you, I’ll say “you.” Nothing I say here is written in stone. I adapt and improve the ideas I discuss here to fit different needs and circumstances. It would be best if you did the same.
If you want to use something more pomodoro than Fedora’s built-in timer, try Solanum.
Divide your work into four 25 minute sessions with 5 minute breaks in between. One longer break after four sessions.
You don’t need to download and install a Pomodoro timer. Just use the one built into Fedora.