Interesting symptoms and causes of stress appear when you coach people. Often these symptoms are beyond a person’s own awareness. 

Let’s face it. If you knew the actual cause of the stress you are experiencing you’d solve it. Right? 

“I see you have 11,265 emails in your In Box.” 

“Yes, I know. But it doesn’t bother me.” 

I know from experience that if you sent this person an email chances are that it would disappear into the black void of cyberspace never to be seen again. 

I know for a fact that it does bother him but he’s still not aware of it….yet. 

So how to bring about this awareness? 

We could try the Logic approach: 

  1. You experience no distractions as you now do when you scan a full In Box several times a day. 
  2. Responding quickly to emails enhances your reputation. 
  3. There are no lurking surprises to catch you off guard. 
  4. 97% of our participants report that they have ‘peace of mind’ since working with a zero In Box. 

All very convincing but is the person going to Do it? 

8 out of 10 times the answer is No.  

Why is this? 

 I should mention here that our target group that we work with are knowledge workers, intelligent and highly educated people. But this is not about intelligence. 

This is about Awareness and Habits……..and that is something else entirely. 

 “Do you agree that you can only really judge the merits of something if you actually do it for a while?” 


“So let’s tackle your In Box, clean it up and then I’m going to ask you to you commit to working with a zero In Box for the next 2 weeks. Only two weeks. You decide after that how you want to continue.” 

“OK that’s fair.” 

“The most effective method of processing email is using the 4 D’s: 

  • DO IT NOW (if it can be done in less than 5 minutes) 

     “The discipline is not to move to the next mail until you have made a decision of which of the 4 D’s is applicable to the mail you now have in front of you.” 

    “Got it.” 

    “The first step is to get rid of all the old redundant emails in your In Box. You can Delete them or move them to a mail archive folder. 

    The rest we will process using the 4 D’s.” 

    There are more efficient ways of cleaning up an In Box than what we’re gong to do. You can sort on Subject or on Sender, for example, but we are aiming at more than just a clean In Box. 

    We want to bring about an awareness and a change of Habit so that the In Box stays empty. 

    “I see that you now have 73 mails in your In Box after moving all the old mail to an email archive.” 

    “Yes, these are the most recent mails that I still need to look at.” 

    “OK, let’s scroll down to the oldest one at the bottom. Which of the 4 D’s is applicable here?” 



    “This one we leave in the In Box.” 


    “I have to do something with it.” 

    “The word Leaving starts with an L, not a D. We’re not processing the emails with the 4 D’s and an “L” ………. right?” 

    “Ha ha, yes, you’re right.” 

    “So let’s make a Task out of it and remove it from your In Box.”  

    And so forth. You don’t stop there. You keep on going, mail by mail until the penny drops. 

    Changing Habits is in itself a process: 

    To begin with you need a Trigger. This is the 4 D’s, not the theory but the action. Just start doing it! 

    Action brings about Awareness. 

    Essential is the commitment from the participant to work like this for a couple of weeks. If he finds it difficult he knows it’s only for a limited time. So he’ll do it and also because he’s agreed with you to do it. 

    As he is working with it he will begin to notice the benefits. This is the Reward: most of our PEP® training participants say that this provides them with a “calm state of mind”. 

    So in the end it’s really about a lot more than just an empty In Box. 


    Eric Magnusson 

    Managing Partner 

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