rone

Negativity and hope, locked in an eternal struggle featuring titty twisters.

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Ever since the notion of "inbox zero" floated across my attention, i've been perplexed by the mania it attracts.  Maybe 15, or even 10, years ago, it was a bit of a challenge to keep up, but these days, most of my email is either spam or commercial.  The former is shipped off to a processing folder, and the latter is either autosorted or unsubscribed.  The time it takes me to deal with is minimal.  It's never occurred to me to brag about inbox zero because i'm there every day.

Then something like this article pops up and i'm just stunned.  2700 messages in a month?  What on earth are you doing?  People just give up?  Maybe i'm just special, or maybe people just hate me and ignore me.

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Cards Against Humanity dude sez: "I think as people understand the idea of Inbox Zero now, it’s a total disaster. I don’t see how anyone could run a business or make a living as a freelancer or do any kind of meaningful work by replying to every email in their inbox all the time so that it’s always empty."

But "replying to every email in their inbox all the time" is not what I understand "inbox zero" to mean. I understand it to mean that your goal is to keep the number of unprocessed e-mail messages in your inbox at zero (or as close to it as is practicable). And it's definitely not something you have to keep actively doing 24/7. Processing an e-mail message means to do one of the following:

- delete unread
- read and then delete
- read, optionally reply, and then file away out of the inbox [*]

Then there's always going to be some stuff you don't want to deal with, so you leave it unprocessed (read or leave unread, but in any event you don't act immediately to remove it from the inbox), but the idea is that this number is very small.

One household management tip I heard years ago is to touch your incoming postal mail once. That is, you pick it up; open or toss it in the recycling bin; and "process" the mail you keep right away. Magazines to the living room, Christmas cards to the mantle, bills to the area of the house where you sit down and write your checks and lick your stamps every couple of weeks. (As I say, years ago.) This way, you don't get piles of unsorted mail lying around the house, and you don't miss bills. I've moved this idea to my inbox and it does me OK, except for the interminable e-mail lists I've gotten myself subscribed to.

For interminable e-mail lists, I like to let a day's worth sit unread and then go through them all at once. (I prefer that to getting a daily auto-digest.)

I'll wrap up with a new grand internet tradition. Tired: sharing SAT scores. Wired: sharing your inbox zero status. I'm at inbox 11, with 7 unread topics.

[*] You know who's figured out how to manage avalanches of e-mail? Microsoft. I've found Outlook to be a great solution when I've been an a role where I'm getting dozens of messages per day.