The Ridiculously Overflowing Inbox

email-hell.jpgWhile there have been quite a few posts on various blogs about maintaining a Zero Inbox, or an Empty Inbox for email, I take the opposite tack and assert that an overflowing in-box of a sign of lack of productivity.

This is not meant as a value judgment or a moral conclusion.

Instead, it is meant to say that a full in-box is a sign that one or more of the 2Time practices has not been mastered. The truth is, an empty in-box is the result of several practices that have been mastered to a significant degree, although I couldn’t say which belt level it corresponds to yet. It is a complex result to accomplish.

Here are some ways to destroy the ideas of an Empty Inbox when performing the different practices of 2Time.

  • Capturing – Simply leave the automatic download feature on. Even better, turn on the feature that shows a symbol, or emits an audible alarm, or both.
  • Emptying – No need for this practice!
  • Tossing – Be a pack-rat and keep every message forever.
  • Acting Now – Leave everything for later, no matter how small.
  • Storing – Use your in-box for storage.
  • Scheduling – Keep your messages in the in-box to remind you to do stuff you need to do.
  • Listing – Don’t bother to take time demands from messages and put them on lists.
  • Switching – Never complete the task of reading and processing email. Stop and go to other stuff that’s more fun.
  • Interrupting – n/a
  • Warning – Be infinitely flexible, and allow your in-box to grow to any size your server will bear.
  • Reviewing – Don’t bother to review the size of your in-box. Just keep ignoring it…

In this way, the in-box becomes a deep, dark hole with lots and lots of items that are hard to find. Hidden in it are such “goodies” as:

  • The phone number that you’ll need to call your dentist to set up the appointment
  • The request your colleague made for you to sit down with them to explain the new project
  • The time and place of the meeting across town that you have forgotten about
  • That newsletter you subscribed to that would help you to keep up with your industry or profession
  • The response you are waiting for to give the go-ahead to start production on that overdue item
  • The prospect who wanted you to respond within 3 days to an RFP
  • The unread message from your sister telling you that she’s still upset after that family argument

Plus, there is a lot more lurking in there, waiting to occupy your time in emergency damage control activities at some future, later date.

Along with the overflowing in-box, comes the burden of knowing that all that stuff is waiting there like a tiger waiting to pounce. You have a vague sense of foreboding, but can’t quite put your finger on what it’s related to.

At the same time that this is going on, what’s happening in the minds of the people that are waiting for some kind of response? Well, unknown to you, the dentist has changed his number to an unlisted one, your colleague is bad-mouthing you and your apparent laziness, you are about to miss the meeting across town, the newsletter mentions a 50% discount on the course you wanted to take…. and to cut a long story short, your sister wonders how you can be insensitive to not even call when she has poured her heart out to you about her impending divorce.

In short, your image, and reputation are bring eroded as that in-box grows.

Your plea “I’m not good with email!” is socially accepted – after all, who is? At least, it’s accepted today.

At some point, however, those around you will know that your full in-box is a sign of your lack of productivity. They’ll know that you just can’t manage your business.

They may not know that you are bad at Capturing, Storing and Tossing, but it’s really your business, not their’s, to create a time management system that works for you..