Inbox zero. Balderdash. I used to scoff at the notion of clearing out your inbox and snicker at people who claimed they could do it. At any given time, my inbox was about 500 messages deep, and while others may be dealing with lots more, to me, 500 is like picnicking under icicles.I know, there all kinds of “new-fangled” ways to deal with email. I remember Gmail being the first attempt to turn email on its head, but I hated the interface (still do). And labeling/tagging emails is for suckers, I thought. But folders? Eff yeah folders! Gotta have 'em. I’m in my mid-forties, I grew up in a world of hanging file folders and metal filing cabinets. It’s time-tested, right? To this day, I meticulously file all of my email into folders nestled into a taxonomy that would stupefy library scientists. And this process, when repeated over and over, takes forever. Yeah. Not good.And let’s not forget about all of the in-person encounters throughout the day that don’t land in your email. The to-dos resulting from meetings, the hallway conversations that lead to other stuff you need to take care of, and the things that pop up in your own head, like “Get your taxes done, dummy” (I just had that one happen when I started typing this paragraph.) Unless you have a plan to deal with these inputs, they can consume you. I can’t even walk to lunch on a nice day and simply enjoy the walk. I’m always thinking about something I have to do with each step I take.I was recommended a book by David Allen called Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I started reading it on a flight recently. I have yet to finish it, but it’s already changed my thinking. The general premise is that your brain is like computer RAM—it can only handle so many processes at a time. Therefore, you need to offload that crap before you start to get like a hot iPhone. He refers to the flotsam that needs dealing with as “open loops.”The core of his philosophy is simply to establish buckets to offload the open loops into, then to establish a decision tree workflow methodology to deal with them. There’s a nice diagram of the workflow in the book, and my interpretation of it is:What is it?Can you do something about it?If you can, will it take less than two minutes to complete? If it will, just do it and stop whining.If it’ll take more than two minutes, either delegate it to someone else (hooray for delegation!), or defer it for a bit. And if you defer it, either take care of it shortly thereafter or set a calendar reminder to knock it out at a later time (but don’t keep changing the date, cheater).If you can’t do something about it, either throw it away/get rid of it, sequester it as something you’ll maybe or someday get to, or just archive it for future reference so you’ll have it if you need it.Make buckets. Fill them. Empty them. Don’t get more buckets. Duh. Brilliant.While that all seems pretty simple, it was the kick in the pants I needed to adjust my thinking. My inbox went from 423 to zero in 30 minutes. Yeah, that stuff is all still there, but it’s now organized by action and purpose, and its not staring at me in a long list, mocking me. And in the physical world, I plan on recording the stuff I need to remember using a tool like Evernote or Apple’s Reminders fed by Siri (or some crazy future world magic) to subject to the same workflow. I’m sure I’ll tweak it as I continue through Allen’s book, but I needed to do something.I guess the most important thing I realized from this exercise isn’t that I implemented a new workflow. It’s finally realizing I needed to implement a new workflow. Don’t be afraid to deconstruct your processes at every level and try to make them more efficient. If you’re swimming in your own thoughts and you can’t find the time to do the stuff that matters, you may need to shake the tree a bit.I’ll report back on this to let you know if it has had a lasting impact on me. I have a feeling I’m already forever changed.