I’ve always been an Inbox Zero kind of guy, although lately with the whole pandemic thing, that idea has gotten less attractive to many. Yet here I am, still throwing replies out there as quickly as I can, searching for the all elusive “0 messages” banner at the top of my email client. Why? Well here’s a few things I’ve learned:
- A 1 minute reply can save a 5 minute reply later: Namely, when an email comes in, I read it and I’ve likely already processed what I need to say back, or what I need to do. If I wait to reply later, I have to “re-do” some of this work – re-read the original message (even if it’s short), and get into the frame of mind for reference. The longer I wait, the longer it takes to get back into that frame.
- People infer a lot about you by the promptness of your email replies. We all know logically that people get busy, and that they don’t live to answer emails as soon as they come in. But research also suggests that it’s hard to not let promptness influence your perception of the other person’s likability.
- And finally, having a clean inbox helps me properly organize longer tasks – if it take more than 5 minutes, I am conscious that it has to go on my to-do list / project tracker. You shouldn’t use a tool for something it wasn’t designed for – email is not a to-do list, calendars are not a to-do list. To-do lists are to-do lists!
Of course all of this is what works for me – I’m curious what works for you. Are you Inbox Zero, Inbox 80,000, or somewhere in-between? And how does it make you feel emotionally and productively?