As of today, I have my Inbox zero again. Which means all my email messages are processed, moved into actionable folders and / or deleted and the actual Inbox is empty (until the next message lands there, of course). I’m uncluttered. Again. Oh, the joy!
If you read my blog regularly, you know how obsessed I am with productivity. Announcing that I have my Inbox zero again shouldn’t be something out of the ordinary. Yet, it is, my friends. I confess that last year (precisely, since January 31st 2012) I have sinned. On December 31st 2012, my Inbox was crushing under the pressure of almost 2000 unprocessed emails.
The first 2 days of 2013 were spent cleaning up this mess. Guilt apart, it was an interesting process. Browsing through the emails you got for an entire year, processing them, getting rid of what’s not necessary anymore, well, that’s an enlightening process. It’s like playing a movie backwards. Some months I was into iOS coding, some months into WPSumo, some months I barely had any emails (especially July and August, when I was training for my first marathon). It was, I confess again, fun.
Why Should I Have An Inbox Zero?
So, since I actually felt great during 2012, while having my inbox cluttered and also felt great while cleaning the mess now, I decided to analyze the pros and cons of having an Inbox Zero. Starting with the pros, of course.
It certainly creates the habit of “doing it”. Doesn’t really matter what underlying system you use for the processing (GTD, ADD, or something else), but the mere fact that you’re processing your messages and don’t let them pile up will make you, believe it or not, more productive.
2 Lack Of Pressure
There’s a certain silence, a pleasant calm in an empty Inbox. It can give you the feeling of “no pressure”, of “everything has been taken care of”. Of course, just because you moved you emails from Inbox to another folder, or deleted them, that doesn’t really mean everything has been taken care of. But you still get that feeling.
A clean inbox will mean one less source of intrusion. It will greatly help you focus on other stuff (usually, stuff that really matters) and, because you actually use a system for the entire emptying process, will help you process each piece of information contained in those emails in a better ay.
Why I Shouldn’t Have An Inbox Zero?
Just to be clear, I’m still an advocate of the Inbox Zero. But, every once in a while, just like when I was taming monkeys instead of setting new years resolutions, a less structured approach to life and work can prove to be beneficial.
1 Room For The Unexpected
If you’re not processing stuff every time, something interesting will happen at some point. Namely, the unexpected. The surprising. The refreshing break in the routine. And that, as upsetting as it can be for a productivity junkie, is a good thing for your health. Believe me.
Every once in a while, taking some personal space and time can give you a different perspective. Just as I was cleaning my Inbox the other day and getting a better perspective of what exactly I did last year. You don’t need to do this for an entire year, of course, but I bet it works for 3, 6 or 9 months chunks too.
3 Taking A Break
We’re not machines. We cannot function as machines. Sometimes, the universe needs us to be productive and to do stuff. But sometimes the Universe also needs us to replenish our energy stocks, to relax, to blend into other life patterns, to relax. Yes, it’s called taking a break.
Now, I’m curious. Do you have and maintain an Inbox Zero process? If so, what are your pros and cons?