How to keep your inbox empty with Astrid

Last week we asked our users how they manage their emails and heard some interesting strategies. Using Astrid, I’ve been able to keep my inbox empty for the last few months. I want to share with you how to do the same.

First, none of these ideas are new. I learned about Inbox Zero years ago and loved it. However, over the years I would regularly fall off the “processing to zero” routine. After analyzing why, I realized that the email pile-ups were a direct result of my to-do list breaking down — this is where Astrid comes in.

Batch your email processing

The idea is to process your emails and clear your inbox during a few focused bursts throughout the day. To help you stayed disciplined, create these tasks in Astrid. Astrid will automatically parse the text and set a repeating reminder at the appropriate time.

  • “Process emails every morning”
  • “Process emails every afternoon”
  • “Process emails every evening”

Act on every email, one at a time

When it’s time to process emails, start from the top and perform one of these 4 actions to each email.
  1. Delete or archive the email if it doesn’t require an action
  2. Do it now if you can take care of the action required by the email in a short amount of time (many recommend 2 minutes as a rule of thumb)
  3. Delegate it if someone else should handle the email
  4. Defer it with Astrid if none of the above apply
It may be tempting to mark email as unread or simply move on to the next one, but really try to force yourself to identify which action is most appropriate.

Forward deferred emails to Astrid

If you need to defer an email because it requires an action that takes more than 2 minutes, then forward the email to new@astrid.com and put the specific action and meta data in the subject.

For example, I might forward an email with the subject

Call cable company to resolve billing on Tuesday !!! #phone

This creates a task called “Call cable company to resolve billing.” Astrid will also understand the meta data and automatically add these settings:

  • #phone adds the task to the phone list; you can add a task to multiple lists, but just remember to put parentheses around lists with multiple words
  • !!! marks the task red (highly important)
  • Tuesday sets a reminder for the coming Tuesday, but you can also put a date like “Aug 31″ or “8/31/12″
  • The body of the email is copied to the task notes
  • Any attachments are also attached for Premium user

And that’s it. Let us in the comments how this works for you or if you have other strategies you’d like to share.