Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Upgrade Your Life


Upgrade Your LifeI bought Upgrade Your Life by Lifehacker‘s Gina Trapani at some point last year, but I didn’t get a chance to dig into it until a few weeks ago.

Chapter 1 is titled “Control Your Email,” and honestly, if I never get any deeper into the book, it won’t matter. The book has already paid for itself. Trapani says, “An inbox full of read messages does you no favors” and goes on to suggest a three-folder method for handling all email.

Just three folders? Gulp. I started to get very nervous.

But she made sense, and I was desperate. I swallowed my fear and took a great big leap into a new email paradigm. Now, for over a week, I’ve been able to keep my inbox at zero.

Oh, I still have issues to deal with from the backlog of messages that were in there before, some from August 2008! But those items now exist on my To Do list, not in my inbox. Brilliant! When I check my email, I no longer get that sick, overwhelmed feeling as I see all those lingering messages. I’ve been able to handle the new messages like my old self. I need to attack the To Do list, but that feels doable and only slightly intimidating.

I know a week isn’t that long, but it’s about seven days longer than I’ve had this sort of success before. If you’re at war with your inbox, you may want to check out Trapani’s book. A new paradigm really can make a difference.

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • I basically do this with my work email (and there is a lot of it) — I have the INBOX for today, the ACTION folder for tasks, the WAITINGON folder for things I should check on every now and then (like if I delegated a task) and the ARCHIVE for everything else. I don't feel bad if I end up using the INBOX as a to-do list for the day, as long as I sort it all out and go down to zero at the end of the day. It's worked for me for months. I can always find what I need in ARCHIVE using search functions.

    Moore's law will probably guarantee that ARCHIVE will always be searchable, but if it ever gets so big as to be unwieldy, I could take, say, everything older than 2006 and put it in cold storage or something.

  • Dayle — the folders are “Follow Up,” “Hold,” and “Archive.” Scary!!! The idea is that everything else is available through search.

    S — I used to do something similar except for the “sort it all out and go down to zero at the end of the day” part. :-D The inbox messages just started multiplying out of control. I worship your mad email-wranglin’ skillz!

  • Yeah. I probably need this book. Sigh. Can I wait until you're done with it, and borrow it from you??? =)

  • You can absolutely borrow it! So far I haven't found much else in the book that I haven't figured out for myself or read on the Lifehacker site. I bet I'll be done with it soon.

  • Hey Jenn, is the book text or does it have a lot of pictures and illustrations? I'm thinking about getting it on my Kindle, but that only really works for text.

  • Hey Rob! There are a lot of screenshots in the book, but frankly, I haven't really looked at them or needed them much. The other section I have found really helpful is "Trick Yourself Into Getting it Done" which has almost no screenshots. There are also links to every screenshot in case you wanted visit the website or whatever. I think the essence of the book is mostly good advice and new ways of thinking about things, which translate pretty well in text form. Of course, I'm not used to seeing things from a Kindle-eye-view, so I could be mistaken!

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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