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08 Sep

Experience an echoing inbox

Datum: 2010-09-08 09:53

When was the last time you had an emp­ty e‑mail inbox? Do you remem­ber how it felt???

Many of us have a lot of e‑mails in our inbox­es and believe it or not, but that in itself results in that it takes longer before we read and han­dle the new mails that arrive.??

My inbox is usu­al­ly emp­ty most of the day. One would think that it’s because I don’t receive many e‑mails, but that’s not the case. I prob­a­bly receive a fair­ly stan­dard amount of e‑mails every day.
?The thing is though, that I sev­er­al times a day read, make deci­sions on and save (or throw away) the e‑mails I’ve received, until my inbox once again is empty.

The amount of saved e‑mails makes a difference

The last few weeks have been very intense for me and often when I have arrived to the office after a few hours of absence, my inbox has announced 41 unread e‑mails”, or some­thing like it.?? It’s inter­est­ing to see how sig­nif­i­cant­ly the amount of e‑mails in my inbox affects my behav­ior.?? When I then sit down to check my e‑mail, I begin to skim through the list, from top to bot­tom. I read parts of one email, and then move on to the next one, with­out real­ly decid­ing what the mail means to me.

I jump up and down the list, read and scroll, but actu­al­ly get noth­ing done. It feels over­whelm­ing to start deal­ing with the e‑mails (since there are many more than usu­al) and actu­al­ly do some­thing about them, so I just fid­dle around and flip through them.??

For me, and maybe for you as well, a large amount of mail in the inbox obvi­ous­ly leads to that I tend to work slow­er with the e‑mails I’ve got.?? Sure, I even­tu­al­ly and final­ly pull myself togeth­er and work through the entire con­tents of the inbox so that no e‑mails are left and the inbox is emp­ty again. A nice feel­ing of free­dom, sim­plic­i­ty and, even a feel­ing of pleas­ant empti­ness arises.

Get down to zero every day

Attend to all your e‑mails in your inbox reg­u­lar­ly so that you’ve got an inbox so emp­ty it echoes a few times dur­ing the day.?? If you are like me, it’s then eas­i­er to keep your inbox emp­ty, and as a plus you’ll respond to your emails quick­er and you’ll pro­ceed faster with the cas­es you work with in your every­day life.

Try it yourself

Sure, it’s easy to say when you only have a few e‑mails in your inbox to begin with, but for those who have 3 766 email saved (out of which 41 are unread), what I’m say­ing may seem a bit offi­cious.?? So, today I am offer­ing you the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expe­ri­ence what it’s like to have an echo­ing inbox. Decide to work with an emp­ty inbox for an after­noon, as if it were com­plete­ly nor­mal to you.

  1. In your inbox, cre­ate a new fold­er and name it Tem­po­rary”.
  2. Move all e‑mails in your inbox to the Temporary”-folder.
  3. Decide when you’re going to check your e‑mail the next time; the next whole hour, now, in five min­utes or lat­er, after lunch, or some­thing like that.
  4. When new e‑mails have arrived, open the first one.
  5. Read the e‑mail.
  6. Decide if it means that you need to do some­thing. If so, put the task on your to-do-list, or car­ry it out immediately.
  7. Also decide whether you’re going to save this email, since you might need it some­day, though you do not know when. If that’s the case, store the mail with the oth­er dig­i­tal doc­u­ments in your fold­er struc­ture that is about the same thing, same client, same project, or same area.
  8. Then delete this e‑mail from the inbox.
  9. Con­tin­ue doing this until your inbox is once again empty.
  10. Take a minute to reflect upon how you expe­ri­enced this. Was it easy to deal with all the e‑mails? Was it dif­fer­ent from before, when the inbox was packed?
  11. Con­tin­ue like this for the remain­der of the day.
  12. At the end of the day, take anoth­er moment for reflec­tion. How does it feel now? Do you want to go back to how it was before?
  13. Either, return all mails you put in Tem­po­rary” back into your inbox…
  14. Or, leave it as it is and spend 20 min­utes a day to deal with as many emails as you have time for from the Temporary”-folder until this fold­er is emp­ty as well, after which you can delete the folder.

How did it work out for you?

Did you try start­ing with an emp­ty inbox for an afternoon? 

Leave a com­ment if you want to and tell me what dif­fer­ence it made for you. 

P S For fur­ther ideas regard­ing the emp­ty inbox, watch Mer­lin Mann’s talk Inbox Zero”.