Inbox Zero is Boring

by Organization, Productivity

One of my earlier podcast episodes on Productivity Trends I Disagree With included the achievement of Inbox Zero. While I strive for inbox zero every day, it's easy because I ruthlessly unsubscribe. I have many filters set up, so that specific emails bypass my inbox, and I average between 30 and 50 daily.

I also OHIO my emails – Only Handle It Once. I don't open an email if I can tell by the subject line I can't do anything with it right then. I delete, delegate, reply if I can do it in less than 30 seconds, archive or task. I don't just keep it in my inbox. When I task it, I either send it to my CU project management system or create a Google Task if it is personal.

I don't think Inbox Zero is an achievable goal for everyone, nor should it be. Some people get upwards of 200-300 emails a day. If they spend time getting to zero, they may be sacrificing time working in their line of genius or doing more important things.

However….drumroll, please…

Inbox zero FEELS fantastic! I can't count how many inbox screenshots people have sent me over the years after working with us on an Email Action Plan, individual coaching, or attending an Email Extinguisher workshop.

So if it feels fantastic, and you know it does, why do Google and Microsoft have to make it so demotivating?

When I posted an inbox zero message from my client Jason Deshayes on LinkedIn, Duncan Shaw, President of DTS Language Services, sent me a private message, stating, “Wouldn't you think that Microsoft could display a more positive, supportive, encouraging message when a user has attained zero email status, other than the canned “We couldn't find anything here.” He feels they are staying boringly, corporately safe.

I agree.

That message makes it sound like there's supposed to be something there, and they can't find it. There must be something wrong. They're looking and looking, and maybe you did something wrong because your email is LOST!

In Gmail, they say Your Primary Tab is Empty. That's no better as far as motivation, but at least it doesn't feel like there is SUPPOSED to be something there.

What about a message that says 

Huzzah! Go have fun!

Zero status! No distractions!

High Fives! You're an email wizard!

In ClickUp, our project management system, you can turn on Celebrations and get screen confetti when you reach inbox zero, clear all notifications or complete a goal target.

In Asana, a rainbow unicorn will fly across the screen when a task is complete.

What if…you could write your own message to see when you hit Inbox Zero?

Jason, you're a rock star!

High Fives, Duncan! Translate and make that money! 

Cara – It's empty. Stop looking at it every five minutes and go for a walk.

Inbox zero isn't a requirement or possibly not even something to shoot for, but when you achieve it, shouldn't you at least feel accomplished?

Inbox zero doesn't have to be boring.

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jim west

Principal and Managing Director, GFF Architects