Posts Tagged: ‘productivity’

Increasing Personal Productivity by Practicing Inbox Zero with IBM Verse

28. Juli 2015 Posted by Benedikt

Inbox Zero is a concept developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann that I’ve been practicing for quite a while now. On the one hand it’s a technique that increases personal productivity by giving you back control over your inbox, forcing you to focus and making sure you don’t miss something important while drowning in an endless flow of email. On the other hand the same principles in my experience help with gaining a more positive attitude towards email and (on the risk of sounding esoteric here) to achieve peace of mind to a certain degree. Simply put, you get rid of the bad feeling that there’s lots of stuff lingering in your inbox that might require your attention and that you’re just not aware of.

IBM Verse as a completely rebuild email experience is focused on productivity and is by design ideally suited to assist you with practicing Inbox Zero. This blog post will teach you how.

The most important principle of the Inbox Zero methodology is to “process to zero,” meaning that ideally you end every workday with an inbox that is completely empty.

In IBM Verse, this desired state will look like this:


So how do you get to zero? Do you need to reply to/work on every email that’s sitting in your inbox?

The trick is to apply processing, described by Merlin Mann as “more than checking, less than responding.” This is as powerful as it is simple. We often check email without taking any action at first. This satisfies our curiosity but doesn’t help with getting things done at all. For many, the next step would be to reply to or act on the emails. The act of processing is somewhere in between and in my experience is very effective in helping you to get things done. Processing means triaging, i.e. reading email and consciously choosing one of the following options:

  • Delete: Email with purely informational character can be deleted or archived
  • Delegate: If the task can be delegated, the email is forwarded
  • Respond: Questions that don’t involve any action can be answered directly
  • Defer: Questions that can’t be answered right away or tasks that can’t be dealt with immediately may be deferred
  • Do: If a task can be completed immediately, it should be dealt with right away

As a general rule (borrowed from David Allen’s Getting Things Done), things that will take two minutes or less should be dealt with (i.e. respond or do) immediately, everything else should be deferred.

IBM Verse is great in handling all of these options. Deleting, archiving or deferring (“Mark as Needs Action“) right from the inbox:


Delegating a task by forwarding the email and flagging it as delegated (“Mark as Waiting For“):


Switching from processing into “work mode” and having a list of emails to act on or a list of emails that you delegated is as easy as clicking on “Needs Action” or “Waiting For” right next to the inbox icon at the top:


It’s as easy as that, and it works on mobile as well. Next time you’re checking email, try to move from checking to processing. It doesn’t really take more time, but instead of only satisfying curiosity and occupying valuable resources in your brain (trying to remember what was important and what wasn’t, which emails still require action and which ones only clutter your inbox) it is a major step to a new level of productivity.