I’m sure a lot of people have heard about it. It does the rounds all the time: having a Zero Inbox Policy. It’s all about making sure that emails never stay in your inbox for very long.
It’s all wrapped up in the assumption that somehow having email in your inbox makes you unproductive.
I think this is a conjob meme. It strikes me as something started by some neurolinguistic programmer (aka “someone too lazy to get a real degree”) as the sort of rubbish that people cling on to in the hopes that doing this one thing will suddenly make them more productive.
I don’t buy it.
For people who have shifted to a zero inbox policy, I’d suggest to you that it’s got nothing to do with having zero emails in your inbox, but all about learning to manage your email correctly. Managing email comes from establishing rules for order – i.e., filing email as it comes in, so you don’t have to file it later. People who don’t like to file end up fussing about having zero emails in the inbox. This is wasted productivity, and encourages you to allow any incoming email to distract you from potentially more important things that you’re currently working on. Why? Because you condition yourself to loathe and fear the populated inbox.
I file. I order. I establish rule upon rule upon rule. My inbox frequently has 200 or more messages in it, and they’re the messages that I just haven’t gotten around to filing. It may be that the communication was a one off, or it may be that I’m yet to establish a rule. Either way, it doesn’t bother me how many messages are in a folder, because I use an absolutely basic processing mechanism:
- If an email is marked as unread, I haven’t dealt with it yet.
- If an email is marked as read, I have dealt with it.
Past that, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if I look at a message count in my inbox (or any other folder) as a sign of defeat, or a sign of lost productivity, but as a simple and easy TODO notification. Some TODOs last for weeks or even months depending on what they’re about, and some are dealt with within 5 or less minutes.
I invite you to shed the “zero email” inbox approach and instead just try to introduce some order in your email handling. You may be pleasantly surprised with the result.