On Friday I finally got my email inbox down to 1 message, after many months with hundreds of messages (mostly because writing XMPP: The Definitive Guide put me way behind on communication -- as Kev notes, it's going to the printer on Tuesday!).
Why 1 message, not zero?
The idea is that the one remaining message contains high-priority action items. It's a GTD thing: once I dispose of all remaining email messages, my current priorities are staring me in the face. These priorities are directly copied from one of the three short text files I toggle between in an always-open terminal window:
Every time I update now.txt, I send myself a new email message with a subject of "TODO" or somesuch. Any email message older than the latest TODO most definitely needs to be disposed of pronto! While I'm at it, I've also gotten into the "zero-defect" mindset of viewing each unprocessed email message as a bug that cannot be tolerated ("zero bugs, period").
So far this new system is working well for me. Now I just need to stay on the wagon...
Peter Saint-Andre > Journal