Not quite Inbox Zero

checking my e-mail

I’ve had some interesting feedback when it comes to my previous blog post on my approach to Inbox Zero.

So is it really necessary to have an empty inbox when it comes to inbox zero?

No, despite the name, Inbox Zero is not just about having an empty inbox, nor is it about deleting all your e-mail so that your inbox is empty.

For me, the core principle behind Inbox Zero is about “doing” and “processing” your e-mail rather than just “checking” and “reading” your e-mail.

You can see the aim of having an empty inbox as a goal in doing this, not as an end in itself. Its about doing what needs to be done and then moving onto the next thing.

For me this is also about making the time to do the e-mail and where required I will close down Outlook (or whatever e-mail client you are using) and focus on what I need to do, without the potential interruptions of new e-mail.

A secondary aspect is having a better understanding of how e-mail can be used and when it is better not to and use a different tool.

There are lots of examples of this, moving all staff information to a tool like Yammer for example. Or instead of having a conversation through e-mail, picking up the phone or actually visiting the person at their desk or in their office.

One thing people often say to me is that they don’t have time to “visit” these other tools or spaces. It might be because they’re too busy checking their e-mail, however my view is that if they are too busy to read the Yammer feed, then they probably don’t value what is there. Sending it as an e-mail instead (or as well as) is a flawed assumption, because if they aren’t going to read it on Yammer, then why on earth will they take the time to read it as an e-mail – they’re too busy! The assumption that if it is in an e-mail people will read it, is often the rationale behind sending it as an e-mail, but talking with people, the reality is that these e-mails often get ignored or deleted. At least with a Yammer posting it’s still there and can be read later when you do have time. Similar things can be said about tools like Slack.

You aren’t always going to be able to change people’s viewpoints on e-mail, but I certainly recommend modelling the behaviour you want in others yourself. If you aren’t willing to change then how can you expect others to change.

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