Inbox 4

I often read about the “inbox 0” phenomenon. Both between people excitedly reporting on Facebook when they reach this state or another article touting how absolutely awesome it is. The goal, if you haven’t already figured it out or read about it, is to reduce the number of emails in your inbox to 0.

Personally, I don’t understand this fascination. Mainly, because I find I get emails of all different levels of importance, and all different requirements as to whether or not they need to be responded to, and how fast.

Currently, as I write this, my inbox sits at 4. Pretty close to the zero. I’ve actually read all of those four (more than once for a few of them). So I could set it to zero. But I use the unread flag for something else. I use it as a way of keeping track of emails I still need to take action on, or to remind me of what they say.

If I look at the four currently unread emails they consist of the following:

  1. A coupon for 10% off a store for the month of June (because it’s my b-day). I’m not sure I’ll need it, or will use it, but I’m keeping it around in case. At the end of June, if I haven’t used it, I will delete it. But, if I marked it as read, it would quickly end up buried, and I’d completely forget it.
  2. A reminder that I still need to do my 750 words for the day. That email gets deleted once I do so. Which often doesn’t happen until late in the evening, or possibly the following morning because I forgot to do so.
  3. An email from my mom about something she’s offered to do, should I want it. As I haven’t decided on my course of action, it’s just sittin there as a reminder.
  4. A response from customer service for a store from a complaint I sent in. I still need to get the information together to reply back to them. But, I’m not in a huge hurry, because I don’t actually want/need them to do anything, I was just passing the information along.

My unread count usually sits between 8 and 14. And emails often sit there for up to a month. I’m not concerned about those, because they rarely involve actually interacting with other people and are more like number one above.

If the email is from someone, asking for something, I try to respond right away. But this invariably depends on the request. Some emails, such as “can we move our meeting from time x to y” can be dealt with quickly and filed/archived/deleted. Others asking for a more in-depth analysis of the data take time. And those are ones that stick around – sort of as another form of a To-Do list.

While I have before, I rarely hit inbox 0. And I have no intention of aiming for it. It’s just not an important goal for me. What about you? Are you one of the inbox 0 converts? Or do you have some sort of ‘system’ for dealing with emails? Or just a regular mess of emails with no organization?

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6 thoughts on “Inbox 4

  1. I’m not aiming for inbox 0 either. Bit of a weird fascination in my opinion! I’m pretty organised about my email; I set reminders and flag things as important but it doesn’t bother me to have unread messages if I don’t consider them important.

  2. As far as I know, “inbox 0” comes from GTD, which tells you to explicitly turn e-mails into items on a to-do list somewhere. The goal is to have a to-do list that’s always up-to-date, which it isn’t if you let e-mails sit in your inbox for a long time before getting to them.

    So in GTD, if you’ve read all your e-mails and done something with them, you’re at “inbox 0” regardless of whether you flag them as unread turn them into reminders. So, congratulations!

    • Okay, I looked it up since I was curious. Maybe it came from Merlin Mann instead, but his definition is about the same. http://inboxzero.com/ says “It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be.”

      • Interesting. I never really looked up much on it, because most of my interaction has been about people being excited about hitting this “inbox 0”. They seem to be implying that their are none, not that they’ve been read and dealt with (even if that includes being marked again as unread). But, I guess yay for my 0 (even if it now says 11)?! 😛

      • When my inbox is empty, Gmail says I have 9 unread messages! No matter what I do, the best I can do is Inbox 9! Think about that.

        (It’s a bug. I reported it to Gmail, but they haven’t fixed it. 😦 )

      • Ugh. Annoying. That seems like the type of programming error, that means someday you’ll look and it’ll say 7, which will make even less sense. (Have they tried to fix it and failed? Is there a new bug that’s now not counting the two messages that didn’t exist before but it was counting before…? :))

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