I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail the other day. I love that movie, and it is pretty funny to remember how email used to be at that time when it was so new: a concept that was more of a novelty than an obligation. Somewhere within the past fifteen years email inboxes have exploded into completely unmanageable hosts for information and digital communication overload.
Email Inbox to Empty
I first learned of the bliss of an empty email inbox from Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less. Before reading this book, I used to just click on emails to take them from bold to bland, fading into the background of my unending list of tasks. But the problem was that I still had this nagging feeling that I was missing something. I feared that I missed a critical task (and I did, on occasion), and even completed tasks associated with the grayed out email subject lines still weighed upon me, because I could never really be sure that they were handled as they still sat in my inbox.
It is called an inbox for a reason. It is not a task list, it is not a reference file. It is a place where information and tasks are constantly flowing into, and each must be appropriately handled as such. Tasks contained within the bodies of emails are to be recorded on a centralized task list, and informational items are to be transferred to a reliable filing system. Email inbox to empty.
It takes work to get an email inbox to empty. Some might argue that there is no point in this, but I would have to disagree. I like to see a blank screen in front of me when it comes to the queues I am supposed to be managing. When I am facing any queue that requires my attention, I couldn’t be happier when there is a sweet love note from Google saying “You have no new mail. Have a nice day”, for example.
The Ongoing Process
I used to put a lot of effort into filing my emails into email file folders, thinking I might need to refer back to them someday. Honestly, I recently renounced categorizing emails altogether, and now rely solely on the archive function of my Gmail account. If I can’t find it in there, I wasn’t meant to find it.
Today it is not that difficult for an email inbox count to be in the thousands, and even upwards of ten thousand. Now, when my email inbox count gets beyond 10, I start getting anxious. I can barely stand it once it gets beyond 50, and usually if I let it get that bad I immediately make it a priority to get the inbox to empty with a quickness.
I am going to kickoff a series on dealing with email starting tomorrow. For now, I am blissfully enjoying an empty email inbox. At least for 5 minutes, maybe, until more emails start coming in, and I continue the process of clearing it to empty once again. Namaste!
image credit: Treasured Paperie