Instead of accepting my inbox as the status quo, today I started to think about why it isn't empty.
My email usually isn't empty.
*Partially due to not having quite perfect discipline on the kinds of processes (a la David Allen's Getting Things Done) that reliably get through email
*Partially through getting a large volume of email
*Partially through not having better systems in place
*Partially through not having cultivated faster decisionmaking (though, I'm pretty fast)
*Partially because having email in the inbox is just the default state, albeit a very slightly unpleasant one.
All of those I'm aware of. But perhaps one more -- I hadn't really sat and reflected on why have this email specifically in my inbox.
So I then asked, "What specifically is all this email?"
In one inbox I use, the most important one, I'm constantly trying to get it completely empty, and yet it'll hover between 5 messages and 150 messages most of the time.
After cutting it down on everything that was quickly cuttable, I was left with 38 messages.
I thought it would be interesting to roughly categorize what each message was regarding --
Legal, Banking, Etc XXXXXXX
Asset sale X
Random information X
Other Admin X
A few observations:
I noticed quickly that this doesn't reflect most of the email I get, but rather the email that sticks around.
The Family emails for instance, are all action-oriented ones, things to help out other family members with, requests, etc.
I get a lot of emails regarding travel, especially lately, but only one stuck around (and it'll be archived tomorrow).
There's seven banking/legal type emails, many of which will be gone after tax day in a couple weeks. But all of these require action, each one of those emails represents between minutes and hours of admin work to do.
Four social inquiries I haven't replied to yet, because they require either reading about what someone is doing, or figuring out details about when to meet or what to do.
Ten emails related to consulting, because I'm hesitant to archive any points when taking a new client onboard. A few of these require action, but mostly these are "double check this before archiving" type stuff.
The eight philanthropy emails each represent between 10 minutes and 3 hours of work for GiveGetWin.
The remaining three one-off emails take a bit of work to process, the longest being a sale of an app we developed where I have some actions to take.
I noticed that I'm using email primarily for two things -- reminders to double-check, and placeholders for work that needs to be done.
This was a useful exercise for me, and I'd recommend it for you -- rather than seeing 38 messages, I see just a few categories that each represent a reminder or a placeholder for work to be done.
That's somewhat interesting. Try it out yourself -- if your inbox is a swamp, obviously do basic clearing first. But then look at things by category, and then figure out why you've still got each message you haven't worked through yet.