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How Tony Hsieh Gets to Inbox Zero

Could the Zappos CEO's elaborate scheme help you?
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Nearly everyone struggles with keeping their inbox under control, but the situation is critical for those in leadership positions. Just imagine how much email someone like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has to process each day.

In a recent blog post, Hsieh outlined his approach to keeping the email deluge from eroding his productivity.

"In 2012, I felt like my email had gotten out of control," he wrote. "I felt like it was a never-ending treadmill, and a lot of important emails I would actually end up never getting to because they would take a long time to respond to and I would just end up procrastinating."

That led him to develop a system called "Yesterbox."

Be warned that it's pretty elaborate, but the essence of the idea is captured in Hsieh's first principle:

"Your 'to do' list each day is simply yesterday's email inbox (hence, 'Yesterbox'). The great thing about this is when you get up in the morning, you know exactly how many emails you have to get through, there's a sense of progress as you process each email from yesterday and remove it from your inbox, and there's actually a point when you have zero emails left to process from yesterday.

He goes on to explain the technique in great detail, including his rule against responding to non-urgent emails the day they come in, the discipline required to process ten of yesterday's emails before you even peak at today's, and the need to actually schedule time to respond to more in-depth emails in your calendar.

But that's only scratching the surface. 

What's your response to this detailed system? Does taming the email beast require careful strategizing? And would it be more or less stressful than your current method?

IMAGE: Courtesy Company
Last updated: May 28, 2013

JESSICA STILLMAN | Columnist

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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