by Leon Rosenshein

Managing Your Inbox

Remember Inbox Zero? The idea that to keep your sanity and maximize productivity you should keep your inbox empty. Basically, treat your email inbox as a task list, and make sure that by the end of every day you've dealt with all of the items. Now this didn't mean everything was done, just that you'd dispositioned it. There were 5 basic options, delegate, delete, defer, do, or respond. Regardless of which one you chose, you didn't need to worry about that email (at least for a while). And for many people it worked.

Of course, like anything, the law of unintended consequences kicked in. Inbox zero was supposed to free people from the tyranny of their inbox. Instead, for many there was lots of action and anxiety. It got a lot of people checking their email nights and weekends to keep their inbox empty. And that was almost 15 years ago when life (and social media) was much simpler.

Which of course led to a recent update of the concept. Which was really an acknowledgement of how the world had changed, and a return to the basics, the idea of getting things done. Starting with the idea that we don't just have one inbox anymore. There's work, personal, professional (but not work), and some number of social media inputs. And after acknowledging that there's multiple input streams, changing the goals. Instead of an empty inbox being the goal, understanding and focusing on the right priorities at the right time is the key. Rather than just taking control of your email, take control of your time. Figure out what your priorities are, not just at work, but in general. Differentiate between the important and the urgent. Then spend yout time appropriately.

And that's not just a good way to manage your inbox. It applies to your your sprint goals, your OKRs, and your life in general.