Inbox zero was introduced by Merlin Mann already back in 2007. But as time spent emailing hasn’t exactly decreased, it should still be relevant right?
Me and many others keep pointing out that prioritizing is key for any product manager (as well as most other people). Spending more time than necessary sorting through your inbox is definitely not the way to go. It just adds to the stress of constantly juggling tasks and priorities. So while not new, is inbox zero perhaps the solution to reduce your stress level?
Before I out my view on this, let’s recap what inbox zero is about.
What is inbox zero again?
The objective is to move away from “living in your inbox”. To move away from having your priorities set by others, through incoming emails.
To do so, Merlin Mann suggested that you either delete, delegate, respond, defer or take action (do) when receiving an email. Based on ideas from Getting Things Done (GTD), inbox zero is about taking control rather than being controlled.
So how do you take control? Start by turning off email notifications. Only check your inbox at decided times in the day. Obvious but difficult, delete and archive as many emails as possible. Forward stuff that others are better at handling, and only immediately respond to emails that require less than a minute or two of your time. Other emails are put in a separate folder, that you then work through once a day.
Finally it is important to note that inbox zero is NOT about keeping you inbox empty. That has very little value in it self. You can fool yourself by keeping your inbox empty, while still spending a large portion of your time and focus on that inbox.
Checking email every 30 seconds is about getting that instant gratification. Driven by the same desire that push you to check social media 200 times a day. To take back control you need to stop doing that.
Conclusion? Is inbox zero the stress reliever you need?
So conceptually inbox zero is great, right? You go from being reactive to proactive and it lets you focus on what matters. The only problem is that in 2016, your inbox is not the only source of external requests, questions and demands. You’ve got your Skype, your Slack, your iMessage, your LinkedIn and that constantly buzzing wearable on your wrist too.
Still email takes up a lot of time for most of us, and fixing that is still worthwhile. So if you are not already 100% on top of your inbox you should try out inbox zero. The best way to get started if you need help is to check out Manns original Google Tech Talk on the subject below. Good luck!