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<p>The Myth of the Empty Inbox
September 7, 2016
Are you organized? Do you think of yourself as being ahead of the curve? Are you efficient?
Productive? Whatever your answer to those questions, I suspect that sometime over the
decade we have lived in this digital world, you have felt overwhelmed by a bloated email
inbox. In the days before digital life, you probably felt equally guilty about a physical inbox
too. Moreover, you have probably anguished at some point over the need to tidy your desk –
or at least over needing to file all of the papers on it. These are familiar laments to most of us
who work in offices. Messy desks. Full email inboxes. Papers everywhere. Aaaagh!
The notion of a messy desk conjures up a vision of the disorganized absent-minded
professor, muddling through life, lackadaisically rummaging through strewn piles of
disordered paper on a completely buried desk. That’s pretty much the archetype of the
disorganized person. Pigpen from Peanuts in a cubicle! Since the dawn of email we have
adopted the same basic psychology for our email management. In fact, I can remember
learning and then training people in multi-day productivity and time management courses
to empty their inbox every day, using sub-files for categories of mail. The thinking then was
that if your inbox had no unread mail in it – and all of the read mail has been put into
appropriate sub-folders – you would be able to breathe easy, free of the burden of looming
messages and their content.
Well, I would like to give you some very good news. I was wrong.
Having a messy desk is fine. Leaving ALL of your 30,000 email messages in your inbox
does not in any way impede your productivity. To the contrary.
There is actual, mathematical evidence for the fact that the very best place to store your
email messages is all together, unfiled, in your inbox.Moreover, your messy desk, with its
piles of paper positioned in the fashion they fell as you touched them, may be the best
approach to have them at-han