Inbox Zero is dead for me

IStock 000013699415XSmall

My Inbox Zero sandcastle

For as many years as I’ve had e-mail, I’ve tried to keep my inbox empty. First it was because I liked neatness, then because David Allen’s GTD mandated it, and then because Merlin Mann came up with some excellent techniques for keeping your inbox empty.

The problem is, the problem has gone from out-of-control to beyond my control. I think it’s actually now beyond anybody’s control.

It’s like trying to keep the sea from washing away your sandcastle. You could do it early on – a folder or tag for every email you wanted to keep, a spam filter to get rid of spam. Those techniques worked not because they are effective, but because the ocean of email had not risen to your particular sandcastle.

And now it has. Five years ago, RSS was the bomb, email was overrun with spam, and the sheer volume of information from people you individually want to be in contact with had not flooded your inbox. For me, the tide has come in as every company, organization, and person I voluntarily deal with on the web lays claim to a chunk of my attention via email. I can’t blame them – I too want you to read my email. You – startup founder, microISV, what have you – do too.

Call this a self-inflicted wound if you must; but the reality is whether you dump everything from your inbox to some other folder or just let your inbox fill up with thousands of messages, it’s impossible to even file, let alone act on every single message that comes down the pike.

There is hope: I’m reading Douglas C. Merrill’s “Getting Organized in the Google Era” right now and maybe the biggest point that he makes that I’ve taken to heart is we’ve reached a point in the evolution of information where search isn’t justifiable strategy, it’s the only viable strategy.

So as of today I’m giving up keeping my inbox at zero, and will declare daily victory if I can only flag and capture emails I need to act on into OmniFocus which is my GTD master program. No more nice neat folders – it all gets crammed  into “Reference” once I’ve picked and flagged what I must do from the stream. File them all, and let search sort them out.

Incidentally, I’ve noticed that searching my IMAP-centralized Gmail in Chrome is about eight times slower than searching for the exact same term on my iMac in Mail. This could be because I’ve been singularly cursed by the gods of Google, or maybe everybody else has the same issue. Considering you can pick up a 2 terabyte hard disk for about $100, I’ll let Google continue to aggregate my email in the cloud so I can get it from anywhere, but will rely on my fast and trusty desktop legacy OS X Mail app to find what I need fast.

How about you? How are you turning the few nuggets of real, actionable e-mail into tasks that you can define, work on, and complete? I’d love to hear about how you do it – please comment.


read more
Bob WalshInbox Zero is dead for me

Three things quick

First off, a hardy thanks to those who commented on this post, or tweeted, or emailed, or IM’ed, or called. Like the song says, I get by with a little help from my friends…

Speaking of help, if you need to kick your web site into a higher gear, you could do worse than attend AppSumo’s Action Class today at noon, PST. Your’s truly will be critiquing the sites of nine brave volunteers already picked. I think it will be worth your while.

And lastly, now there’s only 16 days before GE stops paying for your copy of Do the Work. at Amazon. Tick Tock! And by the way, you in no way need to own a Kindle to read Kindle books – Amazon has free reading/managing apps for every conceivable platform, including the one you are reading this on. In fact, personally I do all my reading on an iPad, except like, in sunlight.

read more
Bob WalshThree things quick

I’m Back. Here’s Why.

For the past two months, hell for the past 3 decades, every time I sit down in front of computer to create I have to push myself to do it. It’s like a force field or some sort of invisble mind-sucking SciFi monster pushing me away from creating. I can spend all day answering emails, surfing the web, looking for new Mac or iOS apps to buy, doing essentially worthless things. But try and write, try and create, and a truckload of rationalizations, excuses, distractions, emotions and other crap springs out of my screen like some sort of weird airbag.

For months I’ve known was deader than the half-eaten lizards one of my cats likes to bring in. I’d even figured out what I need to do to “Pivot” (polite-speak for dumping this baby into the garbage and starting over) and just maybe ship something that people want. And for about the same time I could not bring myself to posting to this blog.

As creatively constipated as I’ve been, there would be days, or at least hours, when I could confront my own Resistance and it would fade for a time. And during that time, I could create, I could have a few brief hours of just being able to make things to have fun we were all promised as children.

So how and why am I writing this?

The how is simple: Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work. Kindle version free at Amazon for another 18 days. It’s my garlic and Star of David to wave in the face of all the rationalizations and excuses Resistance puts in front of me.

When I think, it’s not the best time of day for me to be creating, or that I need to check email again, or I’m too tired, or that I can’t succeed because I’m whatever, or I really should go do this or that instead; when Resistance in its seductive voice whispers, “relax, take it easy, you can do that later, you can’t do it at all” I think of this one short book I’ve read a dozen times. And I pause – is this reality or just Resistance?

Nearly every time, it’s Resistance, that enemy with a thousand faces and 10,000 lies. It will fuck up your head, play on your self-doubts, do what it takes so you can’t do what you can do and create something.

The why is simple too: When you look, really look, at what’s in your way, at the excuses/rationalizations keeping you from creating, they fade. This post is my way of looking at Resistance in the face. One small victory. Think of it as a small note smuggled out to the prisoner in the cell next to mine to not give up hope.

If you’ve read this far, but you haven’t downloaded Do the Work, ask yourself why.

It’s not the cost – it’s free, thanks to a bit of unexpected corporate generousity. It’s not that you can’t read it – you’re reading this, afterall. It’s not that you don’t need any self-help crap, or you’re too busy or you should be doing something important, or you’ll get to it next week, month or year. Unless you are doing this instant the one creative thing that above all else you exist to do, you’ve bought into the same con that derails so many of us.

If you’re pissed off, indignant, angry that I just wasted your time, as yourself why – I’m just some guy with a blog.

The one thing good about Resistance is it’s the ultimate game cheat – the more it pushes you away from something, the more likely that’s what you need to be doing.

read more
Bob WalshI’m Back. Here’s Why.

Poking you about Poke the Box

I’d like ask you to do one small thing.

Not for me – for you.

Right now buy Seth Godin’s about-to-be-unleashed Poke the Box (Kindle version).

While it still in experimental pre-release the bigger the buzz, the lower the price mode and it costs one buck.

Don’t cycle through all the old lame excuses – He’s a marketer, he wears funny glasses, he doesn’t understand all the work I have to, how hard it is to write an app, blah, blah, blah – just buy the book!

Before it’s released Tuesday and the price goes back up.

Tuesday is when everybody you know will be recommending you should read Poke the Box because it reads as if this guy was writing about you.

You can buy me a beer at the next conference with the money you save.

read more
Bob WalshPoking you about Poke the Box

A real Knowledge Factory…

If you are wondering what the big deal is about Seth Godin’s Domino Project, watch this video:

While the factory machinery, Linotype machines and such are gone, the process is just as mechanical and industrial today as 60 years ago. If that sounds as crazy as building and selling a “car” that’s a mechanical horse pulling a metal cart controlled with wire reins, you’re right.

By the way, if you know who Seth Godin is, if you’ve ever read any of his books, if you’ve ever heard of permission marketing, tribes, linchpins or purple cows, do yourself a BIG favor and go buy, for a measly buck, Poke the Box, before it starts to ship March 1. You will be glad you did.

(Thanks to Thomas Fiffer for sharing this video his sister-in-law, Sharon Fiffer found.)

read more
Bob WalshA real Knowledge Factory…

Startup/MicroISV Digest for 2/14/2011

The CatBoard – for Real cat lovers!

Community News:

Any time you put a now-obvious unmet need, a new startup and a cat on a keyboard together, you can pretty much bet I will run with it: Corey Maass (Gelform) has a great teaser up for Cue, the app you need If you run meetups, have gigs, or just organize happy hour every Friday. Corey proved three things with Cue – there’s plenty of unmet needs out there, video teasers do not have to be boring, and yes, you can still get a six-letter .com domain.

From the Actually Getting Work Done Dept.: Will Rayer has a new Ubercode Trial Pack is out – this version has an integrated installer. That means when your program is complete, you can create a fully working Windows installer in one click. Ubercode is ideal for VB programmers and developers who want a refreshing change from complex development environments.

Ever notice those little diamond shaped placards on the side of an 18-wheeler and wonder just want they mean? Ever think about how far and how fast you should run if you see liquid spilling out of the rail car parked down on the tracks behind your house? Well, now you can know: There’s an App, err, and Android App for that, it’s called DOT Placards and Anne Gunn of the Sheridan Programmers Guild wrote it.

Interesting questions with useful answers:

Interesting questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

  • If you’re still in the “I don’t need source code versioning” camp, maybe you should read this post: “Code Fearlessly”.
  • And if you are also one of those “Real Startups don’t need A/B testing” types, have a gander at “How Split-Testing Our Opt-In Form Increased Our Conversion Rate by 102.2%
  • And if you think that having a free version of your product doesn’t carry a cost and a risk, because you won’t be charging for it, then you’d should consider the carefully chosen words of the WooThemes team: “The Cost of Free“.

New at the Startup Success Podcast:

  • Show #96 [link] [iTunes]. In this show Bob and Pat talk with best networked Irishman in Silicon Valley, David Smith, Senor Vice President of Enterprise Ireland. Enterprise Ireland is not just an Irish version of the typical “pretty please do business in our country” national commerce program – they are a $500 million VC fund directly investing in over 70 startups, 15 startups incubators throughout Ireland, and are actively woo U.S.-based startups to locate their European offices in Ireland. Give a listen to what happens when robust government support of technology startups is a reality, not a campaign slogan.
  • Show #97 [link] [iTunes]. In this show Bob and Pat interview Allen Stern, founder of CloudContacts. CloudContacts is another way you can take the hassle and inefficiency out of converting business cards into data. We talk with Allen on the advantages of building a startup to address a problem you experience, why in the age of the social network business cards are not going away any time soon, and more.
  • Show #98 [link] [iTunes]. In this show Bob and Pat interview Sarah Prevette, founder and CEO of Sprouter. Sprouter is an online community for entrepreneurs where you can get advice from more experienced startup founders one-to-one on securing angel and VC funding, pricing, positioning and all the other questions you face. We talk about the growing global startup community, why successful startups want to pay it forward to the next batch of startups, how Sprouter got its seed money and why and plenty more. Don’t miss this show, and join Spouter!

Tired of being stuck in neutral in your startup? Why not do a MicroConsult with Bob Walsh? Instead of hypotheticals and too much information, Bob will work with you for an hour via Skype developing 8 to 10 specific todos that will get your startup in gear. Here’s what one recent client had to say:Details at

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at with the word digest in the subject.)

read more
Bob WalshStartup/MicroISV Digest for 2/14/2011

Are you planning your Maker time?

IStock 000008173689XSmall

Last month I read Paul Graham’sMaker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule post, and I’m still mulling it over.

The gist is that Makers – programmers, artists, writers, creatives – need big blocks of uninterrupted time they can use to immerse themselves in their craft and create. Manager time is all about synching the moving gears of an organization – connection, communication, cooperation, consensus are prized.

Makers keeping Manager hours can’t create: every time they’re about to actually make something, it’s time for another meeting. Managers keeping Maker hours schedule more meetings. Seriously, you need periods of time when you focus on the core job of creating, and you need blocks of time to communicate, connect, research.

So who exactly is deciding when you’ll be creating or connecting? You day-job manager, Facebook friends or worse, no one?

Bouncing back and forth between these two very different time modes repeatedly in the course of a day is a recipe for frustration and pitiful results.  Why not start scheduling Maker time for yourself explicitly? How will you ever get your startup built if the only times you make are in late or very early hours of the day when its quiet – and you’re exhausted or not yet really awake?

If you want results and connection, creativity and cooperation you’d be well advised to start deciding what days and parts of days will be Maker time or Manager time. If you don’t decide and then stick to your decisions, circumstances will decide for you.

So how much Maker time (email, IM, Twitter, Facebook, cell phone are off – just you and your text editor or IDE) do you have blocked out for the next 7 days? Any?

read more
Bob WalshAre you planning your Maker time?

Time to trust your gut.

Since I got word today that I made the Domino Project street team cut, I thought I should explain why you’ll be reading even more posts here from me singing the praise of Seth Godin. After all, what proof do I have this Domino thing is going to not just turn into a fancy book hype thing?

First exhibit for the negative, everything-is-hype naysayers: the very first Project Domino book, umm ebook, umm title just became available for pre-order: Poke the Box. Paper, Kindle and a fancy signed letterpress edition for those who like Seth even more than I do.

What’s it about? Haven’t a clue. Did I order it sight and Kindle sample unseen? You bet!

For the past decade or more, I’ve been getting important ideas from each of Seth’s books, years before everyone else got on the bandwagon. Permission Marketing. Online Tribes. The Dip. Linchpin.

I’ll bet anything he has to say is something I can gain from. And the sooner I know about it, the more of a competitive advantage I’ll have. Remember the iOS developers who took a “wait and see” attitude towards the iPhone – and missed the boat? If you wait for everyone else to decide for you, you’ll wait way too long.

Sometimes you have to trust your informed gut feeling and your own enlightened self interest.

SethGodin Headshot web

read more
Bob WalshTime to trust your gut.

An alternative to Whack-a-Mole Mondays?

IStock 000000619178XSmall

Pat and I interviewed Pierre Khawand early this morning, and while we got plenty out of the interview – so much so we need to invite him back, soon – the most valuable productivity advise for me was how to win at the Monday Whack-a-Mole game.

You know how this game is played – and lost – every Monday, right? You start work all rejuvenized and revitalized after the weekend, ready tackle that big strategic project you’ve been avoiding. So you get 20 minutes into it, studiously avoiding email, doing all right thing productivity things. No more Mr. Frenzic – you are going to be productive!

Then, the first  mole pops its head up – maybe it’s an urgent client task, remembering you forgot to do something, a phone call. You stop being productive and focused, whack the problem, and gamely try to get back into your warm productive flow, only to have another mole head pop up. And another. And another, another, another, whack, whack whack.

Oh shit, it’s already lunchtime and none of my important stuff is done.

Pierre’s advice is simple – spend the time and attention to define what you really want/need to get done in the next two weeks, set deadlines for those priorities, break those priorities into specific tasks, figure out what the immediate first action is for at least the first task and how long it will take you. Then actually schedule appointments for each of those immediate actions, at least over next couple of days.

If you can’t schedule it, how are you going to get it done? And the sooner you admit to yourself something has to give, the sooner by managing expectations (including your own) or negotiating deadlines can get back to reality.

He details this in his chapter on creating an Immediate Priorities Matrix: well worth the few bucks his book, Accomplishing More with Less, costs, plus the value in the rest of the book. After our interview, that’s what I did: making the adjustments that brought productivity for me out of the Twilight Zone and into my very real Monday morning.

Subscribe here if you want to spend some attention on this show when we put it up. It beats losing at Whack-a-Mole.

read more
Bob WalshAn alternative to Whack-a-Mole Mondays?