Monday, May 23, 2016
for the New York Post, Sara Stewart throws the "BS" flag on
"Inbox Zero" -- something I briefly advocated and (even more briefly)
achieved some years ago. She advocates "inbox whatever,"
Studies show that it takes an undue amount of time to return to whatever you were doing when you take time out to read some (usually unnecessary and unsolicited) email, delete it and redirect your mind to where it was before. One study, cited in a story about how some of us may just be more attached to our techno-identities than others, quoted a researcher who studied distraction and email. "When someone drops everything just to get an unread count back to zero, productivity might be taking a hit. 'It takes people on average about 25 minutes to reorient back to a task when they get interrupted,' [a researcher] says."In fairness, I think Stewart misses the point of Merlin Mann and others, that achieving this goal can be a way to worry less about email. She still makes a good point: If you're spending loads of time "managing" your email, you're wasting that time. (And you're missing the real point of having an empty inbox.) If this is true, I agree that you should try something else. I did until recently, but it was a very unsatisfactory default.
Plus, if we're talking about work email, consider this: Having an empty inbox has zero effect on your salary. You're not getting paid to erase emails all day -- unless your job title is Deleter of Emails, in which case, poor you. [format edits, links dropped]
Personally, I have found my own modified version of "email bankruptcy" to be easy to implement and maintain. I neither must schedule "purges" as Stewart advises nor miss out on interesting tidbits that my friends send me that I am too busy to read at the moment. I like not feeling inundated or unsure that I am missing something important. My email counter has also become somewhat useful: It allows me to skip email checks altogether if it is zero and I already either have my email open in a browser tab or am using my phone at the time.
P.S. My own sight modification of "email bankruptcy" has been, for my busiest two accounts, to filter most non-spam commercial email to a "crap" folder. This solves what I call the "ToysRUs" problem: Either I can't easily (or at all?) unsubscribe, but GMail (for example) won't let me send it to the Spam folder -- or I might want to glance at the emails, but not every time I check. This folder I check every couple of days or so, and usually mass-delete.