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Everything you thought you knew about inbox zero is wrong

Here's what you really need to do to start 2020 off right


Forget everything you think you know about inbox zero: it’s completely and utterly wrong.

Merlin Mann, the lifestyle “guru” that invented the concept of inbox zero in the early noughties, claims people took his idea far too literally. They advocated treating work emails like a never-ending task to be completed: once an email has been acknowledged it should be immediately archived, never to clutter the inbox again. Advocates of this philosophy even released handy tips on how to achieve this through infinite tags and categories.

But people soon realised this is not just tedious but a massive waste of time. Mann, who admits his own work inbox is embarrassingly cluttered, agrees.

It is impossible to keep on top of even the simplest of email inboxes without driving yourself completely insane. But at the threshold of another decade, he believes there is a second chance to get it right. So rather than trying to tackle ten years of bad email behaviour, read his simple steps to enter an inbox zero existence.

Accept that almost everything in your life is an inbox

The fundamental issue with the inbox zero concept is that the inboxes in your life are broader and more demanding than ever before. In short, your inbox isn’t just your work email – it’s literally anything that puts a demand on your time: your personal inbox, social media, messaging apps, letters, and even phone calls.

“Ask yourself. If I’m spending time and attention to so many different inboxes in so many places at so many times, is it any wonder that I’m very stressed out?” Mann says.

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