Why does Inbox Zero Matter?

inbox-zero“Why should I go to all the trouble to empty my email inbox?”

This is a question that I am sometimes asked during the Efficient Librarian seminars.  On the surface, all this fussing about with the “action” and “waiting for” folders seem like extra work, especially when the inbox is overflowing.  Participants want assurances that working towards Inbox Zero is not a futile endeavor.

I believe that the labor needed to reach Inbox Zero, as popularized by Merlin Mann, is exceeded by the rewards.  Off the top of my head, here are three reasons to live at Inbox Zero:

  1. An empty inbox clears the mind from reprocessing older messages to determine their value every time the inbox is viewed. The functional folders like “action” provide clarity and ease to workflow.
  2. Achieving Inbox Zero means that you are caught up on new input. This signals to the mind that it can move from processing to acting without worry that something important was missed.
  3. Emptying the inbox is a well-earned and clearly defined win. In the game of knowledge work we need to craft all the wins we can find.  Inbox Zero is a win that renews constantly!

If you have never seen your email inbox at zero, I challenge you to dig down and empty it out.  I expect it will be a victory you will savoir.  If you don’t believe me, listen to librarian Patrick Hoecherl of the Salt Lake City Library.  Upon reaching Inbox Zero last week he wrote to report that, “It feels even better than I thought it would!”  So go ahead, take the Inbox Zero challenge!

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