How I use Highrise Tasks to “snooze” emails and keep my inbox empty.

Inbox zero. It’s like a holy grail. There’s a badge for those who attain it. There are tons of blog posts by people like Merlin Mann and Mark Hurst telling you how to get there.

And today in the NY Times: “An Empty In-Box, or With Just a Few E-Mail Messages? Read On.” It outlines four options for dealing with an email: archive it, respond to it, forward it, or hold it for later. The last option is the one that trips people up…

HOLD IT FOR LATER This is the trickiest option. Some e-mail messages demand complicated answers. You don’t really want to dine with your colleague, but coming up with an excuse will take longer than two minutes. Other messages simply require information not yet available. Your friend wants to know if you’re up for watching the game on Sunday, but you’ve got to check with your spouse first.

You can leave these messages in your in-box with a promise to come back to them soon…Be careful to avoid letting many such messages pile up. Carve out a short amount of time — perhaps 15 to 30 minutes at the end of the day — to respond to all flagged e-mail. Remember, your goal is to keep your in-box empty. Each message sitting there should serve as a stark, visible reminder of your undisciplined ways.

Snooze with Highrise
You know what’s a great solution to these “hold for later” emails? Sending them to your Highrise create-a-task-by-email dropbox. Unlike other to-do lists, Highrise Tasks use time buckets that work on a sort of chronological conveyor belt. That means you can put something down for next week (or a specific date) and then get a reminder sent to you when that date rolls around.

The damn helpful part of that if you’re trying to get to inbox zero: You can “snooze” an email — you clear it out of your inbox, but still have it show it up on your radar again tomorrow or next week, via an email or text message reminder. And it’s as simple as just forwarding an email to a contact in your address book.


The process
Here’s the process for dealing with an email that you want to “snooze” for a week:

1. Forward email to the appropriate Highrise task dropbox (e.g. [email protected]).
2. Delete email from your inbox (just make sure it’s archived and not completely erased). Inbox zero achieved.
3. When next week rolls around, Highrise will automatically send you an email and/or text message reminder with the subject line of the email.
4. Search for the the subject line of the email in your mail application.
5. Act on the email. (Or snooze it again.)

The video above shows the process in action. I’ve found this to be a great way to get emails out of my inbox without having them evaporate or get stuck on some monolithic to-do list that never gets looked at.

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