Tackling Your Inbox

Is your inbox raging out of control? You’re hardly alone.


A poll conducted by Gallup in 2014 revealed that the 48 percent of Americans who check email outside of work hours experience more stress on a daily basis than those who rarely, or never, do.


In a newly updated edition of his best-selling Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, organizational guru David Allen outlines an easy-to-implement method for inbox organization. Rather than letting emails pile up haphazardly in your inbox, read them as they come in to determine what action is required — always keeping in mind Allen’s two-minute rule, which dictates that any inbox task that takes more than two minutes should be filed away for later in an “Action” folder that functions as a to-do list:

If the email requires just a thirty-second reading and then a quick yes/no/other response back to the sender, do it now. If you can browse the catalog in just under a minute or two to see if there might be anything of interest in it, browse away, and then toss it, route it, or reference it as required. If the next action on something is to leave a quick message on someone’s voicemail, make the call now.

Even if the item is not a high-priority one, do it now if you’re ever going to do it at all. The rationale for the two-minute rule is that it’s more or less the point where it starts taking longer to store and track an item than to deal with it the first time it’s in your hands — in other words, it’s the efficiency cutoff. If the thing’s not important enough to be done, throw it away. If it is, and if you’re going to do it sometime, the efficiency factor should come into play.

Kate Mulcrone

Kate Mulcrone is digital editor of Convene.