Is your email inbox proactive or reactive?

Curious about Communication | Email Organization


Many of you have 20-50 emails to answer daily.
Then what?
Each day, that many more emails comes in and soon your inbox is overflowing.
How do you organize your inbox?
In my research and interviews, I encountered a few common methods for dealing with the email inbox.

1)  Keep all emails, answered and unanswered, in the inbox.

Result:  insanely huge amount of emails in inbox (see my November 1 blog post).
Pros:  use search tool to find emails when needed.
Cons:  sometimes can’t find the emails needed.  Curse the search tool.


2)  Answer as many emails as possible, with 30-90 hanging around in the inbox each day.

Result:  30-90 emails fits pretty well on your computer screen, all others are safely archived in mailbox folders
Pros:  manageable amount of emails to answer.
Cons:  daily grind of answering that many emails.  Will it never end?


3)  Answer all emails and remove them from inbox, except for a few floating reference or action emails.

Result:  at most 10 emails in inbox.
Pros:  it’s easy to see at a glance what needs to be done, just 10 reminders of what you need to do.
Cons:  need to dig through archives if something needs to be revisited.  Rue your overefficiency.


4)  Zero emails in inbox.  Answer and empty it every day.

Result:  feelings of exhilaration, minimalist aesthetic.
Pros:  Possible tendency to become workaholic or to feel smugly superior to others due to ability to completely clear inbox (even if it’s at 3am, meaning you have no life).
Cons:  need to maintain extensive mailbox folders; need to hunt through other mailboxes to answer the emails.

Since many people didn’t grow up with so much communication and didn’t receive any formal training in how to organize their email program, it is interesting to see the different approaches.

Which one is the best?

Each system seemed to work for that person.
I’ll go into more details tomorrow.

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