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Electronic OCD

My actual email inbox a few seconds ago
Anyone looking at my desk would realize in an instant that I don't suffer from OCD. You can't tell if the pens are all neatly arranged parallel to each other, because you can't see the surface of the desk. But there is one aspect of my business life where I am compulsively tidy, and that's my email inbox.

I really can't understand people who moan that they didn't see an email because they have about 3000 items in their inbox. Having an empty inbox is painless and very effective.

It doesn't mean you have to check your emails every ten minutes. Just that whenever you do, you empty it. Completely.

I use a kind of triage system. Junk gets binned straight away (that's 90 percent gone). Anything that needs a reply, and that I can reply to immediately, I do there and then. (Not got time? Don't look at your emails. Do it when you've got a few minutes.) Anything that needs action but that I can't deal with immediately I flag up for attention and file in a folder. (You can't see, as I've scrunched it up to take the pic, but I have a large number of folders down the left hand side.)

If your email system allows for flags with alerts you can use these. Otherwise, put an item to deal with that email in your diary (with an alert), and do it as you file it. Either way, you can now clear that item out of the inbox and yet it won't be ignored. It will be dealt with when it should be dealt with.

It really takes very little time, and leaves you totally on top of your communications. I get around 200 emails a day, yet it's not a major time consumer and ensures that I am very rarely caught out. What's more there's a huge amount of satisfaction from seeing that empty inbox.

If you are an email inbox hoarder, give it a try. It will take a few days, but before long you will find a great delight in that empty inbox. And a bit more on top of your life too.

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