Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero

Everyone seems to be overwhelmed by their inbox. Coworkers have proudly show off their inboxes with thousands of messages to me with the same exasperation as when they tell me that they're, “so busy these days.” But most days, I comfortably clear out seven inboxes and just can’t relate to this state of being.

The title of Merlin Mann’s approach to email, Inbox Zero, managed to go viral without educating most people with the actual meaning. They just grafted the name onto their existing understanding of email.

The real wisdom behind the idea is that Inbox Zero is the state when you’ve finished triaging your inbox, not when you’ve responded to everyone. If you actually want to manage an inbox efficiently, I recommend the following:

  • Filter out all recurring emails (newsletters and notifications) to a folder.
  • Archive all emails immediately after reading.
  • Add tasks to your to-do list for anything that requires a response or action. (This is particularly easy with Spark and their integrations with many task managers)

I’ve taken responding to emails entirely out of the equation because that’s not what your inbox should be about. This way, the red notification only represents how much there is to triage, and your task manager can keep track of the people you need to respond to. Your inbox shouldn't be a to-do list that anyone can add to.