Inbox Zero

How To Quickly Complete Inbox Zero Using A Proven Method (Part 2)

Last time I explained How To Quickly Complete Inbox Zero Using A Proven Method. We discussed that the success of reaching Inbox Zero all starts with a simple yet all important question.

Actionable Or Inactionable?

The question is: Is it actionable or non-actionable?

That’s right, it’s as simple as that!

Imagine, we pick up our next physical item/note or we view our next note in our digital inbox and ask ourselves one simple question.

Is it actionable or non-actionable?

How do you respond?

Well, In the last post, I shared the 3 outcomes for a non-actionable article.

Firstly, you view the note as something you don’t require anymore so the best place for it is in the BIN.

Secondly, the note is important to you but isn’t really actionable for another couple of weeks or months. If this is the case we can incubate the note until a more suitable time.

Thirdly, the note is reference material and the best place for it is in a filing cabinet. This may be a physical cabinet in your office, kitchen or basement. If you are working towards a paperless environment you might scan this into Evernote, Dropbox or another secure place.

Actionable Items

What if the note or item is an actionable item?

How would we describe an actionable item?

Simply, it is something that requires us to complete different steps enabling us to accomplish the required goal.

Therefore, if it is an actionable item, we need to ask ourselves another simple question.

Two Minute Rule

Can I accomplish this task in less than two minutes?

Why is it two minutes and not 5, 7 or 10?

Well, from personal experience it takes more than two minutes to put this required action into my system. Therefore, I may as well use less time to get the task done and dusted.

Let me give you an example.

You have three scribbled notes in your Inbox. The first one says “Book an appointment with the chiropractor”. The second one is “Check the time at the cinema for the new blockbuster movie.” Lastly, “Tidy up the shoe rack”.

At your designated time when you work at reaching Inbox Zero, you pick up the first note regarding the chiropractor.

“Can I do this in less than 2 minutes?”

You have the number on speed dial, and so within 2 minutes you’ve made the call and you’re all booked in for next week. DONE!

Secondly, you have the note regarding the movie time which you have promised to see with the kids.

“Can I do this in less than 2 minutes?”

You are sat at your laptop, or your phone, tablet are nearby. Within the next 2 minutes, you’ve found there are three showings at 4 pm, 6 pm and 8 pm.

Now, let’s tackle the shoe rack.

You read the note, decide it can be done in less than 2 minutes, bish-bash-bosh, the shoe rack is a picture of symmetry, like a row of toy soldiers. His on the top, hers on the middle, the kids sandals and shoes along the bottom.

BOOM! Three actionable tasks done in less than 10 minutes.

As a rule: Don’t take too long deciding whether something can be done in less than 2 minutes. Go with your gut feeling!

In most cases, each inbox will have a few tasks that fit the less than 2 minutes rule. The rest will need a few more questions before they’re finished and place in the completed box.

If you decide that you will need more than 2 minutes to accomplish it satisfactorily, continue to question yourself regards the task.


“Can I give this to someone else to do?”

Delegation on many occasions is the most appropriate decision to make.

Can this be done by another member of the family or someone else in the office?

If it can, then use your next two minutes to delegate the task to the most suitable candidate.


Most times, you will realise that your inbox is full of projects that need breaking down into bite-size actions.

What is classed as a project?

David Allen in the book “Getting Things Done” describes a project as something “that requires more than 2 steps to accomplish.”

So, now, you have three more pieces of paper in your Inbox or three notes in your digital Inbox.

The first one has “arrange family party”, the second has “write an article for The Entrepreneur magazine” and the last one says “decorate the lounge”.

All of these single line notes will require more than 2 steps or actions to accomplish. Therefore, these would be marked as projects and listed on your projects list.

Each of these projects needs to be broken down into a step by step action list which progressively takes you from the beginning to a satisfactory end.

It’s as simple as that. Follow the basic direction in this post and my previous one and you will be well on your way to reaching Inbox Zero.

Summary To Inbox Zero

Let’s recap,

You started with a crammed Inbox (physical or digital), containing notes, pamphlets, items, business cards. These were all the things that you had been carrying around in your mind.

Afterwards, you started to calmly and in sequence treat each note or item individually.

Each time you would ask “Is this actionable or non-actionable?”

Those things that you determined were non-actionable items were put into one of three different places

  1. Rubbish Bin
  2. Incubated – Placed in a Someday/Maybe file, or recorded on a calendar or reminder for a future time.
  3. Filed Away – Filed as reference material, in an A-Z fashion only having one item or note in each folder.

Anything that was determined as actionable was followed up with the question:

“Can I accomplish this in less than 2 minutes?”

  • Yes, you immediately get it done.
  • No, you must ask the following question,

“Am I the right person to fulfill this task?”

  • No, you delegate the task to the most suitable candidate.
  • Yes, you determine if two or more actions are required to accomplish the note to a satisfactory finish.

It’s a Project?

  • Yes, write it down on a projects list awaiting for final management.
  • No, but takes longer than 2 minutes it goes straight onto your Next Action List.

Call To Action

In a later post, I will outline in a more detailed manner how to set up your projects and next action lists bringing you a greater control for all the many areas of life.

Would you like to reach Inbox Zero?

If you would, then I can help you.

I have helped others to set up a workflow that takes into consideration the Getting Things Done methodology. I have successfully done this in my own life using only Evernote and a few other timely techniques.

If you would like to know more, then contact me for a FREE 30-minute consultation where I can determine how better to help you.

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