Inbox 0

Most of society has at least one email address. Some more than one. Some have a personal and a work address. Either way, email dominated much of life. But not often do we actually clean out our inbox on a regular basis to even get it to a very neat and tidy pile of only the most important things we care about? Email inboxes can get so full, that it causes people to be lazy to not even want to think about deleting those messages from a year ago that are no longer of any use or importance. It’s like cleaning out the garage - it’s too much work, so forget about it.

There’s a concept referred to as "inbox zero." It was conceived by productivity expert Merlin Mann, and the general premise behind it is to keep your inbox as clutter free as possible, while tending to the emails based on their importance and urgency. This way, you tackle the messages that require responses right away, and you try to read through and archive new messages as much as possible as they flood in. You rid all the junk before there even is any to speak of. It’s like keeping your room clean on a consistent basis. As more and more things add up, the more and more you get rid of them and keep things crisp and neat. You keep your mind clear, you stay productive, and everything remains prioritized. It definitely takes some work to get going, by once you get into the habit of tending to your emails rather than leaving them for later (which ultimately means much much later), it almost becomes automatic, and somewhat of a game that you want to keep playing to see how well you can do and for how long.

The whole idea of inbox zero can be equated to a to-do list. You create lists based on what needs to be done, and you prioritize then, say, in order from most important to least important. Similarly, you treat your email like a to-do list: you have messages that need tending to moreso than others, so you tackle those first. As you continue, you’ve dealt with what you’ve had to deal with, and the less important messages are snoozed for a later time. It’s a handy trick to keep your life simple, and this way you can take satisfaction in tackling one of the most dreaded things we struggle to keep track of in our everyday lives.

Here’s a video of Merlin Mann speaking at a Google Tech Talk on the Inbox zero method:

Merlin Mann on inbox zero