The popular productivity method, Inbox Zero, is based on keeping your inbox empty or near-empty. This practice treats your inbox like your to-do list, where you aim to respond to or delete every email you receive.
Some people use the one-touch rule where they try to resolve the email immediately, while others schedule it for later. Inbox Zero can help us feel in control and more productive, but it can also harm us if we become obsessed with it and feel like we owe someone something all the time.
One way to use Inbox Zero more effectively is to ask yourself a few questions to see if it genuinely serves you. For example, does it bring you a sense of peace, control, and agency? Are you leveraging tools like snoozing messages and storing or marking them unread? Do you have filters in place? It’s essential to consider if Inbox Zero is reinforcing an outdated perception of your work and value, both for you personally and in your organization.
While Inbox Zero is an excellent productivity tool, it’s crucial to remember that productivity doesn’t always mean checking items off a to-do list or responding to emails quickly. In fact, list-checking, presenteeism, and saying yes to everything can lead to burnout and a lack of focus on deep, intentional work. I think it’s important to evaluate whether Inbox Zero is serving you or not and adjust accordingly.
Ultimately, the goal is to manage and balance your workload without feeling overwhelmed and running headfirst into burnout. So, while Inbox Zero may work for some people, it’s not the only way to achieve productivity. There are project management tools for managing projects and instant messaging tools for quick responses, and it’s crucial to use each medium for its intended purpose.
Here are a few suggestions on how you can manage and balance your workload:
Read a book
There are several books on productivity and time management that can help you reframe your approach to work and overcome the feeling of always owing somebody. Some examples include “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, and “Deep Work” by Cal Newport.
Invest in coaching and therapy
Sometimes, talking to a professional can help you work through issues related to productivity and self-worth. A coach or therapist can help you develop healthier habits, set realistic goals, and address any underlying psychological factors that may be contributing to your feelings of inadequacy.
Take time to do mindfulness practices
Mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings, and develop a more compassionate and accepting attitude toward yourself. This can help you break free from the cycle of defining yourself by your productivity and output.
Find your community for support
Connecting with others who share similar struggles can be a powerful source of support and encouragement. Consider joining a support group or online community focused on productivity, time management, or work-life balance.
Remember, it’s important to be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to take breaks and prioritize self-care. By taking care of yourself, you’ll be better equipped to show up as your best self in all areas of your life.