Is ‘Inbox Zero’ as Great as Important as They Make It Seem

Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

I remember when ‘Inbox Zero’ was all the rage several years ago. Productive people kept their email inbox at zero unread messages by the end of every day — period . Entrepreneur and self-help gurus everywhere were preaching this message.

I am not one of those people with thousands of unread messages in my inbox. But, I usually have about 20–40 emails left unread in my personal email at any given time. These are mostly newsletters that I want to read or resources I want to check out when I have leisurely time (but when I have leisurely time I usually spend it on social media). I also don’t check my email on the weekends so sometimes things pile up by Monday morning.

I also often leave 2–3 emails in my work email at the end of the day if they aren’t urgent. I use those as a “to-do” for the next day.

At the end of each calendar year I attempt to get my personal and work emails down to zero to have a clean slate going into January 1st.

It can feel nice to clean house. I also feel like I’m being honest with myself when I finally delete or archive something I’m not likely to read or use anytime soon.

But is being down to ‘Inbox Zero’ every single day an absolute necessity to being successful?

I don’t believe so. Especially if you follow these general guidelines:

If the email is urgent, get to it the same day or at least within 24 hours.

If you have too many unread emails that you can’t find the urgent emails, it’s time to clean up a bit.

If it simply stresses you out to have unread emails and/or you get a feeling of accomplishment by having ‘Inbox Zero’ at the end of every day, by all means make that your rule. However, a few unread emails never killed anyone. I personally don’t find it useful to put that kind of daily pressure on myself and instead clean house once or twice a year (or as needed).

Do you follow the ‘Inbox Zero’ rule or do you have your own email rule of thumb?

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Mary Kate Lewis

Mary Kate Lewis

Radical self-responsibility. Living free. Working hard. Homebirth x2, breastfeeding, baby wearing, anti-RIC.