Inbox Zero: Don’t Believe the Hype

inboxIt’s Friday, and inbox zero claims are popping up all over the place as we wind down the week and try to get ourselves to believe that we really do control our email and not the other way around. What is “inbox zero,” why is it such a coveted status and is it realistic in today’s email-focused world?

What is Inbox Zero

Inbox zero is a term used to describe your empty email inbox. It means you’re on top of the email game; you’re in charge of incoming information; you rock. Merlin Mann, of the productivity site 43 Folders, is the brains behind the phenomenon. He speaks on how to achieve and maintain an empty inbox, and has a plethora of information on managing email for the email-challenged.

Like most people, I want an empty inbox. It’s less stressful than having hundreds of messages begging for your attention when you open your email; having complete control in the email arena is desirable and empowering. But I also know that inbox zero just isn’t sustainable or realistic, unless you want to become a slave to your inbox.

Why It Doesn’t Work

I’m a pretty (OK, extremely) systematic and organized person, yet I very rarely achieve inbox zero. The nature of email – instantaneous communication instigated by others that we typically can’t anticipate – means that it will never stop.

You can make a hundred rules and filters to sort, move and delete messages as they hit your inbox, but you will never catch everything. You will never be able to maintain an empty inbox unless you route all incoming messages to a folder other than your inbox. And then you’re just moving, splitting up and scattering the mess to give yourself a fake sense of security, a mock control over your email.

Inbox zero is a myth; focusing on achieving it is a waste of time. There, I said it. Sure, you may empty your inbox on a Friday afternoon, but what does it look like on Monday morning, and how much time and effort do you expend to get back to zero for a few minutes before the next onslaught? Call me crazy, but this just isn’t a good use of my time.

What We Learn From It

Despite my criticisms of the inbox zero philosophy, I do think there are some valuable lessons to be learned from it. When you take away the literal application, inbox zero offers some quality email management tips. Things like the importance of developing an ongoing process for managing incoming information; prioritizing and weighing the value of different messages appropriately; the need to become a liberal deleter.

If you read through his posts, you will see that Merlin gets it. It’s the masses that fall into the trap of thinking an empty inbox equals uber-productivity and bulletproof organization. I wish that were the case, but it’s just not that simple.

Get Out from Under the Email Spell

So where does this leave us? We still need some way to manage our email effectively, and spend less time doing it. There may not be one universal answer, but there are some possibilities. Read on to explore them.

Image credit: mulligand

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  • Anthony Carrick

    I find it’s worth it to keep the main inbox empty just so I can concentrate on what’s left – it was quite satisfying to move everything into an Archive folder, and then try to move new mail there every day or so. But yes, even with the small amount of mail I receive, I don’t really end up immediately sorting it into a ToDo or Do Later folder. (sometime though, other times my main inbox because the ToDo folder). The best for me is just being able hide away anything I’m no longer concerned with.

  • Michael Porter

    You can make a hundred rules and filters to sort, move and delete messages as they hit your inbox, but you will never catch everything.

    The goal is not to make a rule for everything, it is to process everything. The inbox-zero method is based on David Allen’s book Getting Things Done (GTD), so the idea is decide what needs to be done with it buy move it to the right bucket. Buckets could be Trash, reference, @calls, Blog posts to write etc. If you are just making rules to move it from your inbox to make you feel good you will end up missing things.

  • Chris Kobar

    I don’t agree with your hypothesis that Inbox Zero — or some close approximation of the concept — is not only unrealistic and unachievable, but actually a myth. While some may find it unworkable, namely those that do receive hundreds of email messages each day, many of us find it not only workable, but precisely the most productive way to manage our email.

    Between my work and personal email accounts I receive five basic types of email.

    1) Correspondence — conversation, directives, requests, or information from people that I generally want or should pay attention to.
    2) Files — documents, images, URLs, or other attachment-focused missives.
    3) Receipts — auto-generated notices, receipts, alerts, verifications, credentials or anything similar.
    4) Garbage — everything else.

    Aside from Spam rules, everything else remains in my Inbox until I address it. If it is a “receipt,” it gets moved to a Receipts folder. Some of that content will eventually be copied into Evernote or a password app or saved as a bookmark. If it is a “file” type of email, I will save the attachment(s) on my desktop and then re-classify the email as either “correspondence” or “garbage.” If it is “correspondence,” namely it retains any information that I’d like to reference again — that I cannot already get from my own Sent Mail folder, I put it in the Correspondence folder. Anything else gets acted-upon or immediately ditched as “garbage.” In short, my Inbox is basically an action list and it very regularly achievs “zero email” status. Because I keep my email folders to a minimum it is very easy to organize the emails. And I never wonder if I got to something, because if it is still in my Inbox it means that it is still awaiting action.
    Again, I can see that this might seem too much for those inundated with hundreds of emails a day; I get perhaps 10-50/day tops, so it is very manageable.

  • http://www.krues8dr.com krues8dr

    I don’t mean to be rude, but it sounds like you don’t understand how Inbox Zero is supposed to work at all. It’s not about filtering or even having a clean inbox for a second of two – it’s a Mode of working that keeps you from *having* to do all of the work you’ve described as tedious and inane. Mann’s article Process to Zero probably will make this more clear.

  • Tarh

    Chris is completely correct about “Inbox Zero.” It’s important to note that you’re talking about one particular type of e-mail user – someone who receives large volumes of e-mail every day. There are other types of e-mail users as well who use e-mail very differently or simply don’t have the number of contacts / responsibilities that you do.
     
    For example, I have absolutely no problem keeping an “Inbox Zero” status, and I also don’t multiple folders – everything just stays in my Inbox forever. I have three e-mail accounts and receive, on average, about 1.77 e-mails per day (and no, I didn’t pull that number out of the air; it’s an actual calculation on real numbers).
     
    This really is just nitpicking, though. Of course the whole “Inbox Zero is a myth” idea might be correct for a large group of users, but it isn’t universally applicable as the article suggests.

  • Flavius Stef

    I am sorry, but you seem to have misinterpreted the Inbox Zero goal: it is not to reach zero by using automated means alone, but by both automated + manual. What it pursues is that you process all emails and do one of the following: act upon (trivial task), delegate (and follow up), schedule for later processing or delete.
    The goal is to stop deferring “scary” items indefinitely (I’ll read that email later), but instead to route each email through the “Getting things done” system you have in place, ensuring it gets proper attention.

  • Andy V

    Have to agree that the article misses the mark on what “Inbox Zero” means. The concept implies only that WHEN YOU PROCESS EMAIL by automatic or manual means you process it to zero waiting messages. You decide on the spot if it requires a quick reply, put aside for an action sometime later, archive, or simply deleted.

    The biggest problem is the assumption in the “Why It Doesn’t Work” section. When email is described as “instantaneous communication” the implication seems to be that email is like instant messaging… that it REQUIRES an instant response. That is precisely what “Inbox Zero” is trying to correct. You are not a slave to your inbox. Your emails do not require “instantaneous” responses. If they do, use the phone.

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Thanks for all of the comments! First, I am actually a fan of GTD and use a modified system in my day-to-day work, so I get it. I do understand the general idea of inbox zero, but truly believe that 1) it’s just not realistic in some cases, and 2) it’s dangerous to be so focused on that “zero.” When it boils down to it, I probably do incorporate many of the principles, but a consistent zero message count just seems like it could be an inaccurate measure of efficiency…or maybe it’s just the term “inbox zero” that gets under my skin. :)

  • Darian

    I think maybe you should have done a little more looking into what Inbox Zero is rather than just assuming you knew what it was. I feel like this article just confuses people. Because it’s not about Inbox Zero so much as it is about something you are calling Inbox Zero.

    Your description:

    Inbox zero is a term used to describe your empty email inbox.

    The description from Merlin’s website about the forthcoming book:

    It’s about how to reclaim your email, your attention, and your life [...]

    So, I think it’s clear right there that there is a disconnect here.

    This would be like saying Star Wars was about sword fighting.

  • F

    So, how many words was that to say “I don’t like the literal interpretation of the phrase ‘Inbox Zero’”?

    There might be a reason you don’t achieve it.

  • n/a

    No one is actually “focused on that ‘zero’”- your entire piece fights against a straw man. But great work associating your name with another popular search term!

  • Anonymous

    Assuming that you do actually understand the method, it seems like you are saying that Inbox Zero makes sense for smart people like Merlin Mann, but for “the masses” who don’t understand it, and who you think focus on the Zero at the expense of actually processing and taking real actions on their incoming messages, the method is harmful.

    In other words, you’re not criticizing the method but the supposed dangerousness of it being used incorrectly by stupid people other than yourself.

    Which is a silly way to criticize something.

  • hcmarks

    The problem, Alyssa, is that this piece falls into the same trap as others like it: “What doesn’t work for me, doesn’t work for anyone else.” You may have meant that it’s not realistic in some cases, but that’s not what you said in the original work. What it sounds like is, “I get hundreds of emails a day, therefore Inbox Zero is a myth.” That’s like saying, “I’m lactose intolerant, therefore cheese doesn’t exist.”

    If you’re a self-proclaimed extremely “systematic and organized person”, then it sounds like you’re one of those people with dozens, maybe hundreds of folders to keep you organized. I used to be that way too and I could never get to Inbox Zero. After listening to how Merlin built his (at the time) current workflow, I finally understood why Inbox Zero is so achievable – it’s about minimalism. I pared down my folders/labels from 30 to 3: My regular email inbox and two folders: “To Act On” and “Archive”.

    I go through my inbox, if something is easy to respond to within a minute or less, I respond immediately and archive it. If it takes longer or requires me to come back to it, I throw it in “To Act On”. Emails I’m done with get tossed in “Archive”. This is easy to do because I can search for anything in my archives using Apple’s Spotlight search or just going right into GMail to search directly.

    Andy V above is correct – it’s not about sorting your email. It’s about PROCESSING your email. If all you do is sort every email that comes in, you’re not producing anything. You’re not working. Your full-time job becomes sorting email and I’m pretty sure that’s not what you get paid to do. (I learned that from Mr. Mann as well). Email is only a problem if you let it become one. If you can get around the compulsive need to organize and sort like I did, you can definitely achieve Inbox Zero.

    -Harry M

  • http://nick.shrines.org nickthenut

    My personal inbox is never a problem to get down to zero. I make it a point to keep it that way. My work email is a whole other story though. I used to organize everything, depending on the email, based on who sent it or what it was about.Then realized that was pointless. I stopped organizing my inbox over a year ago. I never empty it. I read everything as it comes in, and mark pertinent email to read later or follow up on.I use Outlook here at work, and have NO problem searching for email that I need. We also have an archiving system setup, and that too has excellent search features.My system works out great for me.

  • merlinmann

    It’s a funny thing, Alyssa. Even though I’m the guy who wrote the Inbox Zero articles, and although I’ve now spent almost a year re-reading, editing, and expanding those articles into a book of the same name, I’m having a terrible time finding the place where I demanded everybody maintain a permanently empty inbox at all times and at all costs.

    In fact, if you read anything I’ve written about this topic since 2006 (and especially since 2008), I’m amazed that you ended up presenting something so close to the opposite of what I’ve actually said.

    Because, what I have proposed—the thing that’s helped thousands of people around the world get their work and life straightened out—is simply to accept that finding the time to check for new mail (or new anything, for that matter) should also mean finding the time to make a simple, one-time decision about what each new item means to you. That’s it. Then you get back to your life. Done. Boom.

    At the highest level, this just boils down to an easy decision: either 1) you DO something about the message, or 2) you transform it into future verb that goes somewhere other than the inbox, or 3) you just get rid of it.

    The notion is that by doing this once (and, yes, all the way to zero) at any time we collect new stuff, we are acknowledging scarcity and accepting that the only responsible way to deal with any future stuff is to first dispense with the old stuff as soon as we can. Otherwise we’re just pushing bits. Old bits. And that’s not only not Inbox Zero, that’s not even work.

    And, the idea that one would want to, in my own words, “empty your email inbox — and then keep it that way” just refers to what I call “the processing habit.” Meaning, regardless of how often you choose to check for new mail—whether that’s once a minute or once a decade—you still benefit from doing the processing once and only once. If you’re not done making decisions, you’re not done processing (that’s usually when I just start hitting “delete”).

    But. This absolutely does NOT mean you should sit in your inbox all day, playing with Facebook updates and Viagra ads. Jesus, no.

    So, with respect, if you simply meant to say you find it too difficult, annoying, or time-consuming to regularly decide what to do about your email, then I wish you would have said that. While I would disagree with that (admittedly notional) observation, at least it would have been a fair presentation of your disagreeing with something I’ve actually written or said. Rather than trying to explode a non-existent “myth” about headline-grabbing “hype.”

    Now, as to this “zero” part that people seem to get so fixated on. As I’ve emphatically drilled in to people for years now, this “zero” should absolutely NOT be seen as an anal-retentive and non-negotiable finish line that MUST be crossed constantly, in real time, always, at all costs and under all conditions. Far from it. That particular zero is a desirable result, not an animating reason.

    It’s just that for most people, treating their email with the same emotionless efficiency that they bring to their mailbox at home ends up working orders of magnitude better than “Meh, whatever.”

    I don’t dispute that some people choose to obsess over the emptiness of their inbox to the exclusion of everything else. But that’s a personal tic, and it’s not Inbox Zero—no more than renting a crane and calling it a bicep gives you a better free-weight workout.

    Here’s the nut: the true IBZ ninjas have internalized that, at the heart of it, the real zero in Inbox Zero means having no residual anxiety or distraction about either the unknown unknowns or the known knowns or anything in-between. They figure out how to build a tolerance for all the unknown AND ambiguous AND incomplete stuff that they know is lurking behind every corner and underneath each click of the mouse.

    In so doing, they also learn to find a mix of the information and courage they need to feel great about staying OUT of the inbox and focused on their real work for as long as they can stand. Which they can do with a clear conscience solely because, in the time they’ve set aside to treat their inbox like an adult, they have total confidence that nothing will get lost, dropped, mangled, or forgotten.

    THAT, Alyssa, is Inbox Zero. Not spending hours dicking around with email.

    While I’m honored that people find that little phrase of mine fun and enjoyable to use (often as not to refer to things that are unrelated to anything I’ve ever said), I think that anyone who put my actual material alongside your article might be left scratching their head. Given that your article contains no quotes and sparse external citations beyond a Twitter search, your readers might find themselves asking the same question I have:
    Did she even read the Inbox Zero articles?

    If you did read what I’ve written and have heard what I’ve said—especially in the last two years or so—then I regret having given you the wrong impression about what this stuff is about. My bad.

    But if, as it strikes me, your piece is based mostly on “stuff you’ve heard people say on the Internet,” then that, my friend, is some thin gruel. Even as a linkbait pretense for promoting your tips article.

    Regardless of the mixup, I do appreciate the chance to respond here. And special thanks to the many commenters who were kind enough to point out some of these same issues.

  • Leo Thom

    I am a sophomore in college, so my inbox may be a little easier to maintain than others reading this article. However, I am a Resident Assistant, constantly coordinating events with on-campus organizations and receiving instructions from my supervisors. I’m also an bio-engineering major, a discipline that cannot be taken lightly. I receive a multitude of emails daily from my supervisors, course professors, lab teaching assistants, residents, campus clubs…but my inbox is able to stay manageable by following Inbox Zero’s motifs.

    Judging off of your article, you seem to internalize that following Inbox Zero’s message and ideas are simply an act in futility. I agree that trying to keep your inbox totally empty at all times is a waste of time and resources that can be better allocated to actually getting things done. However, I believe the general idea behind Inbox Zero is to have a way to better manage your email, and subsequent workflow, and to not literally have an inbox with no new messages (although it is quite possible with careful curation).

    As a college student, I see many of my fellow classmates overwhelmed by the messages sent out by their professors, and are caught underneath this massive pile of information, paralyzed into inactivity. Ten unread emails becomes twenty. Twenty becomes thirty, and sooner rather than later, the student finds himself demoralized, not willing to get started at processing the received information. If students were to follow the simple, effective rules outlined by Inbox Zero, their lives, productivity, and work flow would see an effective increase for the better. Myth? I wouldn’t be able to maintain my 3.6 GPA, on-campus job, and my active social life simultaneously if it wasn’t for Inbox Zero.

  • Jason

    It’s amazing to me how personally some of you have taken this post. Like Alyssa has somehow attacked your family. It’s her opinion and it may be wrong (in your view) but that’s okay. To imply Alyssa is calling anyone stupid is well stupid. Read the rest of her posts and you would know better to accuse her of belittling anyone or doing a post because of a popular search term.

  • Jaime

    I get hundreds of emails a day and I achieve inbox zero easily. I move everything that I can’t act upon to the archive. If I can act upon it I do so in the moment (I take 10 to 20 mins while making coffee first thing in the morning, at midday before lunch, and before calling it a day), or if I can’t I flag it and move it to the archive. I also have a bunch of smart mailboxes for organization purposes. If I flagged something I always move it into Things.app, which I check every time I complete a task, and I generally take care of quick responses in between bigger tasks. The real trick to take control after creating a workflow is to answer as quickly and simply as possible. In my case either I answer with a pre-made response OR I answer in two sentences or less (I include a http://two.sentenc.es/ link in my signature). If you can’t answer in two sentences or less, this is probably a conversation you should have either on the phone, in your project management software or through IM. Stop using e-mail to have long winded conversations and you’ll easily take control of your inbox. I can answer 50 emails in less than 10 minutes just by using the pre-made answers alone. Also, use your keyboard to navigate and answer emails, it saves you A LOT of time.

  • @ian_wright

    There is this thing called “research”. It’s useful for writing things for other people to read. If you understand what you are writing about, it’s possible to put together what we call in the trade “an informed opinion.”.

    You should try it. People like that kind of thing.

  • wow

    As everyone else has mentioned you seem to either:
    a.) have completely and tragically misunderstood the whole concept of “inbox zero”–including how real people other than yourself define and use it–or
    b.) are very cynically misrepresenting it so that you have a straw man and some linkbait. We all know “buzz word” + “hype” = traffic!

    I agree that pointless and self-satisfied tweets like “inbox zero! I rock!” are tedious and don’t actually indicate whether a person has done any actual work, but to say that an empty inbox is a “myth” or a pointless goal is like saying “I get junk mail and bills every day! It is just not realistic for a real person like myself to have an empty mailbox!” Really? Here: you just take the mail out of the mailbox (once a day!) and at that time decide what you can throw away, what needs to be kept for reference, and what you need to respond to. Not a big deal. You don’t even need to stand next to your mailbox all day! That right there is the essential kernel of the concept.

    You could have written an article called “A lot of people seem to misunderstand the point of an empty inbox–here, let me explain” which would have actually required you to read and think about anything Merlin Mann has written. Instead you did this, which generates traffic and offers nothing of substance.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Mann gets a backhanded compliment while his particular insights are deemed “myth” and “hype”. Regardless of the opinions Ms. Gregory has of Inbox Zero as a system or option, my impression of this article is that it was weakly researched. Ms. Gregory is a “fan of GTD”. Well, are David Allen’s hypothesis also myth? From her own link we get the following quotes: “I subconsciously (or not so subconsciously) desire inbox zero” and “The bottom line is that there are solutions to managing email. You just have to find the one that works for you at a given time, with your current time constraints, needs and goals.”
    Ms. Gregory, there are many ways to drive traffic to your article. Hypocrisy is not a flattering one.

  • Anthony Stauffer

    If this is anything more than an attempt to grab attention by class hijacking, then I can’t wait for the followup article about “The Now Habit” in which you describe how difficult it is to do everything simultaneously, right now. Because that’s what that book was about. At least what I could assume by reading the title, which is all that’s really necessary these days.

  • jonathanstark

    Hi Alyssa –

    I agree with others who’ve pointed out that it seems like you’re not quite clear on the concept of Inbox Zero. I’m glad you posted because there are probably a lot of people out there in the same boat and maybe this public discussion will help to clarify it for yourself and others.

    Rather than echo other comments, I’ll just raise one point that I think nobody else mentioned. In your very first paragraph, you seem to have given up hope (emphasis mine):

    It’s Friday, and inbox zero claims are popping up all over the place as we wind down the week and try to get ourselves to believe that we really do control our email and not the other way around.

    This seems to suggest that your email does in fact control you, and that to believe otherwise would be the result of fooling yourself. Hopefully, you’ll take these comments to heart and keep experimenting with the Inbox Zero concept. I think you might be on the verge of a break through – and it sounds like it’s sorely needed.

    Best,
    j

  • Anonymous

    This sitepoint blog is incorrect and functions solely to grab a headline.

    Inbox Zero is a philosophy, not a quantitative goal that must be attained constantly. During the times of the day you check email, you process accordingly and don’t let things aggregate to the point of mayhem down the road.

    Life is easier. Things get done. Thumbs up all around. Thank you Merlin!

  • http://www.avertua.com Alyssa Gregory

    Again, thanks everyone for the (constructive) comments. Consensus seems to be I’m missing the point, and while I don’t think that’s the case (it’s more of an issue of my disagreeing with the point), I will certainly re-read Merlin’s work and explore what I may be missing. Maybe there is hope for me one day becoming a “IBZ ninja,” Merlin!

    I think it’s important to remember that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to something as personal as email management (and this is why I wrote the second part of this post). So, as always, if you have your own solution or process that works great for you, please share it!

  • Anonymous

    No. You have in fact missed the point. And quite deliberately. Link bait and key words padded out with a lack of substance. Suprised I can’t see an advert on this page for a copy of “Blogging By Numbers For Profit But No Soul”.

  • Michael

    No, Alyssa, I think you’re missing the point, and then disagreeing with that.

  • merlinmann

    The problem, Alyssa, is that disagreeing is different from fudging the truth. In addition to doing the latter, you’re trying to portray your factual errors and misattributions as other people’s problems.

    While your errors and misunderstandings may strike you as distinctions without a difference, they are very meaningful to people who have taken the time to absorb this material.

    If you called a hematoma a “strawberry skin thingee,” a physician would correct you. If you called Socrates “the guy who invented soccer,” a philosopher would correct you. And when you imply that Inbox Zero is an untenable myth made of deliberate hype, you can be very well assured that its creator will correct you. Very loudly and very publicly and, if necessary, very repeatedly.

    Words mean things, Alyssa. And when one misuses them to say things that are untrue and harmful, it’s considered honorable to admit it, apologize, and fix the error. Like it or not that one is universally regarded as THE “one-size-fits-all solution.”

    Unfortunately, declining to do the right thing—or persistently changing the subject—changes neither the meaning of the words nor the obviousness of the error nor the subsequent and widening ding on your credibility.

  • Ryan Cunningham

    Maybe you should try doing some research next time, Alyssa. If reading is too time consuming or mentally taxing, you could try watching a video for this story!

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=973149761529535925

    Isn’t that Merlin Mann a helpful guy?

  • Steven M Scotten

    Alyssa, I think the source of all the resistance comes from the misunderstanding you let slip when you wrote, “there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to something as personal as email management.” It’s true. There is no one-size-fits-all magic bullet. But Inbox Zero has nothing at all to do with email management.

    I’ll write that again just to be clear: Inbox Zero has nothing at all to do with email management.

    There’s nothing at all about organizing things into folders or subfolders or telling you what you should keep or what you shouldn’t keep or whether to filter things automatically. I keep an archive of old emails going back to 1994. I used to keep separate folders for mailing lists and I know people who set up separate folders for individual people in their lives.

    In fact, in your email management strategies post, each of the strategies you list can be used with Inbox Zero, maybe with slight modification. The point is not how you sort, but that you make the distinction between mail you haven’t seen yet (your inbox) and actions you think you might want to take based on emails you have seen.

    Inbox Zero just says, leave my inbox free for things that are incoming. Just like the mailbox in front of your house or apartment is only for incoming mail. You bring the mail in once a day, and go through it. Some things you put in the trash, some things you put in a folder or pile to deal with later, and some things you deal with right away.

    Think of how crazy it would feel if instead you took all the bills you weren’t ready to pay and magazines you weren’t ready to read and put them back in the mailbox. Just thinking about that makes me shudder. Merlin is suggesting that you do the same thing with your email inbox. Maybe you have another folder in your email called “stuff I want to look at later” but at least you wouldn’t be confusing your incoming queue with your to-do queue.

    At least that’s how I understand it.

  • Chris

    Regretfully, the second part only shows more lack of understanding. E.g. you persist in claiming that Inbox Zero is about using too much time on email.

    You can’t disagree with a point unless you are willing to do it on the basis of the premise of the point.

    I’m afraid you’ll find that these page views might be less valuable when you loose readers because of this.

  • Ryan Cunningham

    Alyssa may not have much in the way of a process for personal email, but she sure as hell has a process for link baiting! Maybe her next article should be about that…

  • More fun than processing email

    Reading these comments was more fun then processing all the email I got today once. Thanks all.

  • dbostrom

    So, Merlin: I’m confused.

    Is this your “I’m Writing A Book!” persona or your Twitter persona?

    Regardless, I’m with you. IBZ isn’t about email or “solutions” — it’s about my relationship with myself, and the commitments that proceed from that.

    Good luck with the book. I’ll take a dozen.

  • Tim Windsor

    I’m with Merlin on this, though I do get what you were getting at, I think.

    But, as a side-benefit of giving this issue more than a few minutes of attention from the wet stuff in my skull, I decided to jump into the fray and clean out my over-filled inbox.

    Which inbox, at the moment, has — get this — zero items in it.

  • Nate

    Alyssa, honestly you need to grasp the practices behind Daid Allen’s GTD (getting things done) before you will understand Inbox Zero.

    Basically its this:
    1. Email comes in over the day.
    2. At scheduled times you sit down, uninterupted, and process your inbox.
    3. Every email you decide:
    a. Delete it – if its junk
    b. Do it – if it takes 2 mins or less
    c. Delegate it – if more efficent to
    d. Defer it – schedule it in your calendar
    4. Then plan your day and week out with the remaining actionable tasks.

    The other key to a good systems is an Active and Archive filing system. Active files are where emails that require follow up go, and archives are where data/ info emails or files you need to save go.

    Honestly, you keep this up twice a day (start and end of work), you can easily keep your inbox to zero unless something unexpected happens. I manage my own business and get 100 emails a day. My inbox is zero right now.

    Honestly, having anything in your inbox at the end of teh day is no different than having work piling up in your physical inbox on your desk.

    Oepn your mind up and come at the material again, starting with David Allen’s GTD. Good luck :)

  • JNN

    I just setup a filter so that any email with the @ sign in it will be archived ! Easy!

  • dakine

    why bother writing an article that just flames something? clearly you dont like the concept because you are one of the few that has a heavy traffic inbox, pointing that out by showing how inbox zero doesn’t apply to you just shows how disconnected you are from sitepoint’s users as you can see above in the comments of people who have found inbox zero to fit perfectly with their needs.

    Thanks for informing us of what the inbox zero concept look’s like from up there on your high horse. :)

  • http://www.sitepoint.com/articlelist/487/ Andrew Tetlaw

    While healthy debate is encouraged and appreciated, personal attacks are definitely not welcome. Accusations of link baiting and so on are unfounded, untrue, and have nothing to do with the topic at hand. They’re quite accurately characterised as personal attacks.

  • merlinmann

    Good point, Andrew.

    Another thing that’s healthy is finding the editorial wherewithal to preemptively educate your contributors on how to avoid, contain, and quickly ameliorate unnecessary bad blood.

    Few things that come straight to mind:

    1. getting their facts straight before hitting “publish;”
    2. acknowledging and admitting errors when they occur;
    3. fixing the error and — for bonus credit — apologizing for the oversight and harm.

    It’s cool that you stepped in here to defend your writer; it would’ve been even cooler if you’d never had to.