The Race To Zero

Thanks for sitting down to read my latest blog post. Much appreciated. Now, stop what you are doing and open your in-box just for a moment, then come back….I will wait.

OK, so, what’s your number? How many e-mails do you have right now? 10? 50? 100? Or are you among the many people I know who have thousands in there, all jumbled together? If you are, I hate to say it but this just makes me cringe and shudder at the thought of facing that every day! Perhaps I fall in the other extreme (yes, I am a little ‘over organized’ some might politely say) but if I can’t see the last e-mail in the list I get a little antsy. At least once I week I try and get down to zero. That’s my goal, what’s yours?

E-mail can tie you unnecessarily to your computer, or to your phone, and can make you less productive in the long run. Click on the image to the right to enlarge and you will see what really annoys people about e-mails. Does someone from your office insist on sending you photos of their clever cat or include you on every chain (spam) e-mail known to man? Or is it the Reply All used by everyone in the company when it’s really just not necessary?

To put things in perspective, below is a video of Luis Suarez who works for IBM. For more than four years, he hasn’t used e-mail for work related communication. Although this approach might not be right for everyone, he is able to highlight just how time consuming and unnecessary a lot of the e-mails we receive daily really are. Are you guilty of emailing someone in the same physical location as you, when it’s just a few steps to go and visit them face to face? I know I am.


Too excessive of a change for you? What about just taking one day with no e-mail? Perhaps call it “No E-mail Day”? Well that’s exactly the change Paul Lancaster of Plan Digital started in the United Kingdom last year. You can read his manifesto here to learn how he structured the venture, and why he felt the need to push for this day. A day where we can all be more productive with our time, and not be tied to our in box for 24 hours. Last year it was 11-11-11, this year it is planned for 12-12-12 and has gained much press and publicity over in the UK. I for one am behind this venture, but would take careful planning. Not only would everyone on your team, or within your company need to know in advance, but depending on the business you are in, your clients or customers might not be so understanding! For more information you can check out his Facebook page here: No E-mail Day

Finally, here are my own personal rules for my in-box. Feel free to steal and use if you think it will help you! These are not rocket science, and widely used by many I am sure. When I get an e-mail, I do one of four things with it:

  1. Reply – if I can do so in a minute or two, I do so instantly. I then either delete the e-mail or move it in to an appropriately named folder if I know I need to refer to it later
  2. Move – sometimes a reply is not needed, but its information you need to keep and refer to later. Simply move it in to an appropriately named folder
  3. Delete – it’s ok to delete e-mails! I assure you! I do and I feel good about it. I even set up rules to automatically delete some e-mails depending on content or the sender. I even heaven forbid, delete some e-mails without reading them! Try it some time! (within reason of course- not those from your boss, not a good idea)
  4. Leave – if it’s going to take me a few days to get back and respond to an e-mail, I leave it in my in-box. Based on the other rules I have above, because I have so few in my inbox, I can immediately see what I need to still perform an action on.

So, those are my rules. Would they work for you? Do you have your own set or a unique way of organizing your in-box? I would love to hear about it below.

If you are on Twitter, you can follow Paul Lancaster @lordlancaster or @NoEmailDayHQ, or Luis Suarez @elsua.

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