When you google “inbox 0” you get like a billion results telling you how to achieve the magical Inbox 0. Zero, zilch, nada emails in your email inbox. Wow!
I’ve been there a few times in my life. Most recently in the first half of last year. Since then I had the To Do list item “Gmail inbox 0” almost EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. on my list.
And EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I failed.
The closest to an empty inbox I came was between 12-25 emails on most days. Sometimes I gave up for a few weeks and I easily ended up in the region of 200+ emails.
The whole psychology behind Inbox 0 seems rather stupid and inefficient if you think about it. It’s a good topic for Productivity Ninjas/Gurus/Experts to write blog posts about and sell their courses, but in reality there is little real reason why you should have an empty inbox at all costs.
My business was running fine in 2019, having 10, 20 or even 200 emails in my inbox at any given time. I’ve got friends with inboxes of 50,000+ emails and they’re doing just fine.
However, today I decided to try it once again. I sort of had a day off and just had to drop off my daughter at the zoo and wait for a few hours. Initially I planned to catch up on some podcasts and Kindle reading. But then I thought why not give Inbox 0 a try while being surrounded by gazelles and giraffes?
Approximately four hours later I got to Inbox 3. The remaining 3 emails could have all been archived and a note could have been put into my ToDoIst to use those emails later for some new marketing campaigns. That’s it. The magical moment. Inbox 0.
How did I get there?
- I replied to a bunch of emails as I would do on any given day – REPLY
- Some other emails weren’t actually relevant any longer as someone solved the problem without me ever getting involved – DELETE
- A lot of emails were just reminders or to do list items, so I did exactly that. I took a note in my ToDoIst and deleted the email – DELETE
- Some other emails were inspirations or ideas that I should implement, like interesting email copy, good subject lines or other Call-To-Actions in the emails. Again, those emails were easily put into my to do list as an action item with the reference to the email subject line so I could easily find them later on. – ARCHIVE
It turned out that I did a lot of curating in my inbox and I’ve now decided to stop exactly that. Whenever an email doesn’t need a reply and won’t be executed on within a few days it will be archived and put as an item into my ToDoIst for later on.
You could say that this is just pushing the item from one list (Inbox) to another list (To Do list), but it’s more than that. It makes me think and evaluate the email in the first place. I don’t want to move every single email into my To Do list. So I’m more inclined to quickly reply to an email or to delete it because it’s not relevant and only as a last resort move it to my To Do list.
I still won’t obsess too much about the magical Inbox 0 though. By the time of this writing I’m back at Inbox 12. But hey, tomorrow is a new day!