Ryan Jordan

My Email Inbox is Permanently Empty

My email inbox is permanently empty.

Yep, that’s right. Permanently.

What if we treated our email like … possessions … gear?


Nothing comes into our house – or goes into our pack – unless we put it there, right?


When was the last time someone hauled a truckload of junk, unloaded it in your driveway, and said, “Hey, when you get some time, go through these boxes and do what you like with them?!” It doesn’t work that way. You move into a new place, and it’s you that decides what goes in it.


And, when you are packing your pack for trek, do you first put all of your gear into your pack, and then remove only those things that you’re not going to need for a trip? I don’t think so. You start with an empty pack.


Now sidestep with me to your email inbox.


An entire industry (“email and life management”) has cropped up with complex systems of managing incoming data to achieve the utopian “Empty Inbox”.


I did something cheaper and easier.


I created a permanent filter that immediately archives all of my incoming email, skipping the inbox.


It’s wonderful, simple, and automatic.


I login in the morning, and I have no email. I check it at noon, and I have no email. I check it before I leave work, and I have no email.


This system really works. 100% guaranteed.


So that begs the question, what’s the use of an inbox?


I’ll tell you what it’s for: doing those things that you decide you need or want to do.


So, to use this system, start your day in the morning and email yourself things that you want to accomplish for the day (I pick three to five items, and describe each one in the subject line of a separate email). Now, scan your archive folder and move “N” things back to your inbox (I pick about 7 items, including those that I sent to myself earlier).


Then go back to your inbox and do those seven things.


When the inbox is empty, repeat the process.


If you have a need to scan your email for urgent things, feel free to go to your archives and do so, and move those urgent things to your inbox.


Remember the days when email was so sparse that we’d literally sit in front of PINE eagerly awaiting for somebody to send us something? Those days are long gone, of course.


Just as traveling efficiently in the wilderness requires the ruthless filtration of stuff into your pack that precisely serves the goals of your trek, so too does working efficiently in a world where information is delivered to you via electronic super-soakers require the ruthless of filtration of email into your inbox that precisely serves the goals of your life.


So, instead of creating 100 filters to get stuff out of your inbox (pack), maybe you should use the filter that works the best to put stuff into your inbox (pack): you.