Zero inbox

Zero inbox is a mentality that I’ve picked up in the last year and have applied with great success. For every email you open you have three choices. You can either delete, wait, or archive. Let’s look at each of these closely.

  1. Delete
    Try to find a reason to delete each email that comes through. Does it have future value? Is this information you really need? For personal emails l consider the value for future reference and think twice before deleting it. If I believe it will be important to remember that conversation later it doesn’t get trashed. I also use my email for sending myself personal information that I want to remember later (which then gets archived). But for anything else it’s game on. If I don’t need it, it’s gone.
  2. Wait
    Emails that are not archived or deleted stay in my inbox waiting for an action. Essentially they become todos. Since I turn to email regularly this puts my todos where they can’t be ignored. I also send texts to my email when I’m on the road with todos since I don’t have a smartphone. This has made a big difference in terms of me getting things done and not forgetting important details.
  3. Archive
    If you’re email doesn’t qualify for being deleted, then archive it. Gmail makes this easy with the archive button. I have also activated a Google labs option with a “send to archive button” every time I reply to an email. Typically if I take the time to reply to an email then I consider it archive worthy; I may need to rethink this in the future though.

Minimal email

We’re surrounded by email. We use it every day and it’s become an integral part of our lives. Here are five ways to keep your emails to the minimum.

  1. Keep it short
    We don’t want to live in our inboxes and no one likes long emails. Do others the courtesy of keeping your emails short and concise. Force yourself to write emails in two sentences or less. If the email is coming out too long ask yourself if it needs to be more actionable.
  2. Actions
    Every email you send should have an action. By making your emails short and starting with an action you’ll help keep the attention of the action first and foremost in your contact’s mind.
  3. List your questions
    This is absolutely essential. Break out your questions into numbered items in all emails you send. If you don’t do this your contact may quickly scan your email and just respond to the first question.
  4. Put a deadline
    Having a deadline gives your contact a reference point to prioritize your email. This is liberating and leaves out any possibility for loose ends.
  5. Don’t rant
    Emails are impersonal. They don’t convey inflection or tone. If you write something by email in a negative tone you risk the chance of having your message completely misunderstood. Anytime you have to deal with a sticky situation you’re safer making a phone call or meeting in person. Never send an email that you wouldn’t feel comfortable being dug up later.

Checkout the full article which was inspired by the99percent.

Minimalist packing

I pack light while traveling. It’s a challenge to see how little I can bring with me. Experience has taught me what is absolutely necessary and what is dead weight. For short trips, whether by plane or car, I bring my laptop bag and one carry on sized bag. I was even able to do this on a three week trip to Hawaii recently, it was great! Packing light is one aspect of a minimalistic lifestyle. Bring only the essentials, keep your life and trip simple. You’ll have more time to focus on your trip and less on carting around your bags. Reuse clothes, wear your jeans or socks more than once, and wash your undergarments while you shower.

Next time you travel somewhere bring less clothes than you think you’ll need. You may feel out of your comfort zone but what’s the worst that can happen? Maybe you’ll have to wear a shirt more than once. After some experimenting you’ll be a pro at minimalist packing, you may even come to enjoy the challenges it brings and have one more reason to look forward to that next vacation.

My smartphone debate

This is a hard one for me. I’ve admired the iPhone for years and considered getting one. But I’ve held off. Then there are the Android phones which get better every year, not to mention the new iPhones. A smartphone promises instant and constant connectivity, access to unlimited information at the swipe of a finger.

It’s now 2011 and I am looking at the latest version of the iPhone (Verizon anyone?). But is this a need or a want? Last summer I got an iPod Touch and absolutely love it. I use it for email, a calendar, a Bible, Facebook, and much more. I’m now more connected then ever before. What if I take the next step? I’m questioning whether this really helps in the simple lifestyle I want to live. I’ll let you know what happens.

The stuff we keep

Stuff complicates our lives. It can become a plague, increasing and demanding space, creeping into our closets, drawers, garages, basements and attics. The longer it’s there the harder it becomes to part with. As a result we buy larger houses or rent storage units. Moving becomes a nightmare.

Take action today. Start small. Pick an area such as a drawer or corner of a room. Have a trash can handy and don’t spend too long on any given item. Put everything into one of three piles: remove, keep, or wait. Items in the remove pile can be given to friends, Goodwill, or trashed. Put items in the wait pile into a container and seal it. Write an expiration date on the container and reevaluate after six months. You may find that you didn’t need or miss its contents. Then either keep them or get rid of them.

Letting go takes work. But don’t give up, keep attacking one small area at a time. Question whether you would replace something if it broke; if not then you probably don’t need it. Do you have clothes you never wear or haven’t worn in a year? Give them away. What about books that you haven’t read in years, or never? Loan them out to friends, or give them away. Have something that you’ll never use but keep because of its memories? Take a picture of it before throwing it away. The more you physically handle something the more it means to you, even if it has no real value.

Be radical, ignore the voice in your head that’s been trained to warn you that you might need that someday. The fear of what if can be overwhelming. Live in the present, not in the what ifs. For the one rare occasion where you might need something that you’ve gotten rid of there are thousands of occasions where you have too much. Eventually it will become easier to decide to part with things.

Setting priorities straight

Our society is distracted. Information comes at us from all directions vying for our attention. We are connected to streams of communication and constant activity. A wealth of knowledge is at our fingertips with answers for any conceivable question. We are more connected and social than ever before. The question is, at what price? Has the speed of society and the ever expanding wealth of information come at a cost?

When I moved from California to a rural part of the Midwest I was struck by the contrast in the pace at which life moved. I went from speeding on the highways just to stay with traffic to being stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy. My life came to a crawl. Subconsciously I was able to catch my breath. Initially I had no internet, barely any phone reception and little contact with society. This period of my life helped me connect with God more closely than ever before. I valued the time spent reading spiritual books without distractions. Of course life picked up again, but for this period I was able to appreciate something unique, a quiet life.

I value that time spent and, years later, am attempting to cut the unnecessary out of my life. We may have 1000+ friends on Facebook, but are these real connections, are these real friends? It’s important to find out what distractions are holding you back. Identify them and cut them out of your life. Then you can focus on things that really matter.

Television is a waste of time

Imagine taking the time spent watching television and devoting that to something worthwhile. Suddenly you have free time available to spend with loved ones or on developing new skills. No cable or dish means having one less bill to pay each month. If you want to watch a movie visit your local Redbox or video store and rent one.

The decision to stop watching TV may feel uncomfortable or radical but after seven years without TV I can attest to not missing it. And news? You can check online. If there’s anything newsworthy your friends or family will let you know. Make a resolution to simplify your life by calling your cable provider and canceling their services!

How many keys?

Look at your keys. Are you carrying a five pound ball of metal, rubber and plastic? I have found that I only need a single keyring with keys for my car, apartment, and office. For rewards cards I tell the store clerk my phone number and they’ll honor my rewards points.

Losing my keyring is unlikely because I keep it either in my pocket, a bowl by the front door, or in my laptop bag. All of this is just another step in simplifying my life and carrying only the essential with me.

Water is the perfect drink

Our bodies contain a lot of water. In order for our organs to run smoothly we must stay hydrated. Try to drink eight glasses of water daily, if active drink more. Other drinks are best reserved for special occasions. Water is the perfect minimalist drink as it doesn’t contain sugar, preservatives, caffeine, chemicals, dyes or other unnecessary products; it’s just plain H20. Water is perfect for between meals as it won’t start your stomach’s digestion.

When you switch to drinking just water it might taste bland, but with time you will enjoy it. Drinking water is just one aspect of living a simple lifestyle.