Explore inbox zero

I’ve blogged about this often enough, and generally talk to folks about, so I should document what it is, and how I use it.

I get the advantages of constantly whittling away so emails don’t go neglected and your inbox doesn’t overwhelm you. More and more lately though, inbox zero is just another thing online that saps my attention and dopamine and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something meaningful (when I haven’t). I think that in 2019 I’m wildly anti-inbox-zero because I don’t want to continue routinizing email as “work” that care about.

Maybe the best solution for me is to go through my inbox at the end of the day after I’ve accomplished all the important things I wanted to do (when you can, if what you do allows for it, etc. etc.). I definitely try to make mornings for work and defer emails as long as I can (people know how to reach me for urgent things) but I know sometimes can’t and a lot of folks can never do this- for when I can’t, I want to just drop the completionist approach and instead commit just enough time to clear out emails so tomorrow or next week’s inbox isn’t so overwhelming.

I highly recommend the original google talk which people often point to as the whole origin for the phrase “inbox zero.”

It has more to do about how we process and choose what information to discard and avoiding information overload than it does with keeping an inbox clean.



This is part of why I created this quest: I don’t think the benefits of the idea are what folks focus on. And I think in part because it is hard to explain why making a major commitment in thinking about process can change everything that follows, whereas gamifying an empty bucket (email in this case) is second nature to us netizens.

This is one of the reasons I am not more enthusiastic about inbox zero, in sharing the “good news”. I don’t think everyone is setup to fix the loops that inbox zero fixes. And so the superficial portions get highlighted. Also, it can be counted, right? Folks running analytics on their email, drooling over burndown charts.

When I approach inbox zero I start in the deep end, and then swim back to shallows where it suddenly seems reasonable to inbox zero. For instance, I take two meetings a week. I don’t work more than 4 hours a day. I check email twice a day.

I inbox zero, but not because I’m trying to manage my bucket of messages. I already did it. Inbox zero is just one of the many routines and practices that keep the engine going. :slight_smile:

Okay, so why do I want to explore this subject? Two reasons:

  1. Certain jobs benefit from the routines I have in place, and folks are currently suffering through a lot; good folks get burned out.
  2. Other folks’ insane email practices indicate insane knowledge practices that get in my way; active modeling and documentation is a tool to combat this annoyance!

A more important step to inbox zero would be “email 101”. My rage meter is nearly full, I’m sure I’m going to make that course very soon.

I’m writing a thing describing talkgroup as a project, and a line came to me that corresponds with my inbox strategy:

talkgroup is a way for me to publicly organize conversations.

Another way to say that is maiki gets inbox zero at maiki@interi.org, but employs inbox infinity at talkgroup.xyz.

I think that works because it works the issue: we don’t know what other people are doing, there is missing information. I lean towards radical disclosure, so group web mail inboxes just make sense.

YMMV :slight_smile:

Wow, I’m not sure what I do is even considered email anymore. I have bunches of systems that process messages coming to me. So indeed I do a form of inbox zero, but really I just “inbox N, system X”, and honestly, I’m kinda crushing it on that end. :sunglasses: