Inbox Zero – a Myth or Reality?

As I wake up and get ready for work, like many other adults, I check my email and realize that some people (mostly spammers, wrongdoers and insomniacs) have been active while I’ve been away from my technected (yes, there will be words like this that I will use) world. I furrow my brow, scratch my head and proceed to delete the obviously delete-able messages and onward to the holy grail of “Inbox Zero”.


 Now, Inbox Zero is a concept that was introduced to me while reading David Allen‘s legendary book, “Getting Things Done”. Basically, it means going through your email at some point during the day, deleting/archiving messages that you have read or that do not matter, responding to emails that will take less than 30 seconds to reply to, and moving the ones that need further action, reading, etc to another folder until you have no more emails left in your inbox.


In life I have found several issues with this:

  1. Emails keep coming in – inbox zero lasts a very little time for me.
  2. I would have to create quote a few extra folders to keep up with the workflow such as: action, waiting, read, reference, delegate, protocol. Multiply those by 2 for personal and work and it becomes unwieldy…
  3. The, I would actually have to make the time to follow up and go to the other folders. Adding that in to an already tight schedule daily schedule seems unnecessary.
For me, the amount of follow-up emails in one day (about 50 or so), seems to be much better managed in my inbox. So, rather than inbox zero, I like to call my system inbox-10(ish). I definitely do have my synced and shared calendars (iCal and Google Calendar), an awesome application for lists (Wunderlist), and my handy note-taking application (Evernote) that complete my eco-system. These are all available on tablet, computer and phone, of course…




PS For those people with more than 1000 emails in your inbox. Delete them all. Starting from scratch is sometimes just more better (yes, the more is used for emphasis).

Since writing this post, I’ve actually started to get to inbox zero a lot more steadily these days. If you’d like to find out more about how I did it, please subscribe to my newsletter below and you will receive the eBook I wrote on the topic! Please also let me know what you think! 🙂

Adnan Iftekhar

1 Comment

  1. Nice article Adnan, I agree I don’t think targeting just getting to zero messages is the best way forward. Like you I found an alternative, if I have to name it…it is more like Inbox Zen. I focus on managing email in a system that works for me, allows most email to be managed in a short amount of time, ensures I control email rather than the other way round and overall email is just a tool I use to communicate. The result of far more peaceful and zen like relationship with email.