Tech Tip: Achieving Zero Inbox

I learned this system at a seminar from leadership/productivity guru Paul Burton--his website is He calls the system "QuietSpacing," and it is an order of magnitude better than the previous productivity/organizational/time management system I had been using: The Franklin Covey Planner (adapted for use with Outlook and a PDA, of course).

Now, I don't want to knock Franklin Covey. I learned A LOT from their techniques, taught them to lots of people (including my wife, who gets to hear me blabber endlessly about all my most recent discoveries in productivity) and if you're not familiar with them, you should check them out But Burton's QuietSpacing has helped me manage, not just my time and to-do list, but also my information (especially email) and things that I've delegated to others, in a much better way. (My friend and co-worker, Maritta Terrell, who also converted from Franklin Covey can testify.)

The lynchpin of this system is Outlook folders. Most people have a series of folders for filing important emails for reference purposes. This is vital. Also critical are an extra 4 folders which you create in Outlook named: WIP_Action Items, WIP_Awaiting Response, WIP_Pending, and WIP_Reading.

Now you are ready to address everything in your Inbox. What is it? 1) Trash - throw it away 2) Archive - file it away 3) Reference - file it away 4) Reading - mark it will an Outlook flag for a certain reminder date and put it in your WIP_Reading folder 5) Work - mark it will an Outlook flag for a certain reminder date and put it in your WIP_Action folder, if it's something you must do, your WIP_Awaiting Response, if the next step belongs to someone else, or your WIP_Pending folder, if it's something that really needs to be pushed off your radar for a little while.

With this system I can file or "taskify" every email that hits my Inbox! And it helps me keep track of the things I've delegated to other people too.

Of course, the system is more subtle than just the core concepts I've described here. There are some best practices that can help you optimize--especially regarding how to recover from an already big, hairy mess of an inbox! If you're interested in learning more about it, I'm happy to do Q&A ...or give Paul Burton a call. Tell him the law firm administrator from Austin, Texas that had over 50,000 items in his Inbox sent you.

Tech Tips is written by Joshua de Koning, Josh is a good friend and is the Administrator at Lloyd, Gosselink, Rochelle & Townsend.