Gary Weinman to be precise. For Gary does something few mere mortals or 21st century humans can do: he actually maintains an empty e-mail inbox.
Now, this feat deserves recognition on its own merits without knowing one thing about Gary. When you add in the fact that Gary is a CPA and partner at Katz Nannis and Solomon, it takes on near superhero status. After all, accountants, particularly partners at a firm of 50 people, might get an e-mail or two, right?
So, how does Gary do it?
“I get an e-mail and I respond to it and then delete it.”
That’s it? Really?
“If I don’t need to respond to it, I delete it.”
I had some difficulty relating to that one. With five active e-mail addresses, it was a big enough burden to keep one under 100. Yet the empty in box was a goal worth pursuing as these types of challenges are the things that can break up the monotony work from home professionals sometimes feel.
Now, my primary e-mail accounts are well past saving, with more than four figure e-mails inhabiting an inbox. We’ll save those for a snow day or when the internet goes down. That left two candidates: my Gmail account and one for my networking groups.
Gmail might take a school vacation week. So, I attacked the one with a little more than 1,000, the one for my networking groups.
The strategy was three-pronged:
E-mails with attachments – Either save the attachment and delete the e-mail or delete the e-mail entirely.
E-mails that involved prospects – Follow up with those folks as to whether or not they would attend a meeting and then delete. If those were people I wanted to contact down the road, I created a folder called “Future Prospects” on my hard drive.
Reminder/Tasks – Create an Outlook item to remind me to finish a task by a certain time and then delete the actual e-mail.
As somebody who leaves things on his desk, so he knows where they are—as opposed to filing them in a drawer—this strategy took a little discipline. Yet as the number of e-mails came down it got easier. When I finally struck empty—zero e-mails—I felt the digital version of a runner’s high.
Hyperbole? Perhaps. Yet unbeknownst to me, a standard had been set. My version of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hit streak had begun. My quest began:
Keep that in-box under five e-mails following the guidelines above.
No problem, right?
Well, publishing a weekly newsletter and reminder notices, not to mention invoices, means there will be e-mails in my in-box. It’s now a question of faith—in technology and myself.
That invoice sent via PayPal is stored there and doesn’t warrant me keeping a copy of the reminder message.
Out-of-office messages and copies of the weekly newsletter can be deleted as they come in.
No need to keep e-mail exchanges. Just the last message as long as the entire string is within the body of the e-mail and only if it was absolutely critical. And, if so, it should be deleted in favor of a task or reminder.
Yes, the empty e-mail streak is alive and well. At least for that in-box.
Ironically, during this time, I sent out a notice to my e-mail group about My Home Office Hacks. It came as no surprise to me that Gary was the first to respond.
While I’d like to think it was solely for his enthusiasm for my work, it came as no surprise that Gary was the first to respond.
Also no surprise, he signed up.
The great ones make it look so easy.
Do you have a strategy for emptying or keeping your in-box empty or near empty? We welcome your response.
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Do you strategy for keeping your inbox under control? Check out one WFH professional’s quest for an empty in box in this blog from My Home Office Hacks.