How LIFO Gave Me Victory Over My Inbox

Last In, First Out, or LIFO. It one way accountants value inventories.

What does this have to do with email? If you’re like me, you use FIFO, or First In, First Out. The newest message sits on top of our inbox, ever being replaced by some newer email.

Over time, older, more important emails get buried and lost. Then, at the most inopportune moment, one resurfaces like a nuclear-powered submarine set to reek havoc on your schedule.

As an experiment, I changed. I placed the oldest message on top.

And my productivity increased dramatically.

Rules of the LIFO Inbox

By telling Outlook to place the oldest email on top, I quickly realized what needed my attention. I also saw there was a lot that could be deleted or archived.

Respond to the Oldest Email First

With your Inbox turned upside down, the oldest message is on top. Act on the oldest first. Those are the Last In and should be First Out. When I did this, I quickly found a few things that had fallen off my radar. I quickly got them back my the work-flow as a result.

Set Reminder Flags and Tasks

For actions requiring follow up, I set a Reminder Flag and leave that message in the Inbox. It will remain at the top of my list, ensuring that it doesn’t get buried by newer email. Once the task is complete, I archive the email.

Archive on Completion

The key to a clean desk is to put completed tasks in a file. Email is the same. If an email doesn’t require any action on my part, I send it to my Inbox Archive using Tools > Organize. If I need to reference the email later, I can search the Inbox Archive. I archive all of my completed email at least once a day. This activity ensures that my Inbox only has items that require my attention.

What do you think? Would LIFO help you get victory over your Inbox?

One thought on “How LIFO Gave Me Victory Over My Inbox

  1. You are describing FIFO, which is First in, First out, meaning the oldest email gets the attention first. That is, the first one that came in is the first one that you do something about. The LIFO model is more like a (software) stack where you push down the older stuff and the newer stuff is on top.

    The accountant reference is correct in concept, but also the term is mis-applied. You can see here why it is called First-in, First-out, or FIFO and not LIFO as said above.


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