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Here’s why Inbox Zero will never work for you

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For years, I’ve marveled at co-workers’ inboxes. Some, like me, make a conscious effort to limit the number of unread emails (even if we don’t always reply to everyone) while others are perfectly happy to let thousands of messages pile up — and simply ignore them.

Personally, I can’t handle the thought of having more than 20 unread messages in my inbox. If my email count surpasses this magic number, I need to take immediate action or else deal with mounting anxiety that prevents me from doing my actual job or enjoying a vacation.

Having a relatively clear inbox is my online equivalent to tidying my desk. Ah, peace.

[Read: What audience intelligence data tells us about the 2020 US presidential election]

Inbox Zero is not always the answer

I’ve subscribed to the Inbox Zero email managing technique for years — or so I thought.

Developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann, Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management that seeks to allow people to clear their inbox.

It’s important to note that Zero doesn’t refer to the number of messages that should be left in an inbox, it’s in fact the “amount of time an employee’s brain is in his or her box.”

[Read: 5 easy steps to achieve Inbox Zero]

Mann argues that time and attention are limited and when an inbox is conflated with a “to-do” list, productivity can suffer so he’s identified five possible actions to take for each message: delete, delegate, respond, defer, and do.

I’m going to level with you: I do a lot of deleting, delegating, and deferring — mostly because I get MANY irrelevant emails. But I mainly do it for the small endorphin rush that comes with seeing the number of unread emails go down to ‘0’, rather than actually detaching my brain from my inbox.

Now it’s clear I wasn’t following the true teaching of Inbox Zero, but why is it that we gravitate towards the simple interpretation of ‘zero unreads’?

Understanding the psychology of email

I’ll never fully understand how people can let their emails pile up but — honestly, I break out in sweat when I see my husband’s 50,000 unread emails — but why is it such an issue for people like me?

“When email engines give us unread notifications, they are using a behavioral technique called the Zeigarnik principle,” Beatrice Andrew, a behavioral science consultant, tells me.

This principle is based on the notion that humans like to complete incomplete things. Hello, this is me in one sentence!

“We like to get to the end of something or complete a whole task. We get a bit of a kick out of getting to the end of something,” Andrew adds.

So, when I feel that slither of anxiety, it’s possible that my brain is unconsciously telling me that I want to untick the notifications or read the unread messages — and me being me, well I can’t let that go.

Andrew says it’s crucial to remember that inboxes are a digital tool we use to assist them. “Rather than being managed by the inbox, we need to find ways of making it work for us in the most effective way,” she notes.

The first thing we need to remember is that we all have different priorities and we need to give people the space to use email that works for them.

Some people might need a nudge if they don’t reply to an email in a timely manner — and that should be OK. Some roles require you to be completely responsive and clear emails immediately, but that might not be the case across everyone in a business.

Overall, it’s important to remember that people with different personalities deal with emails (and other things) very differently. “Humans all think in different ways at different points in time and place,” says Andrew.

For example:

  • A detailed thinker will need a neat and tidy, administered inbox.
  • A process-driven thinker will administer their inbox manually, on an email by email, and case by case basis.
  • An abstract visionary thinker will be happy to ignore their inbox and will be unaltered by the mess. (Yikes!).

Managing your inbox — and not the other way round

We create habits when a specific behavior becomes automatic or habitual thanks to regular repetition.

“Email is a habit for many people,” Andrew says, adding “Whether email habits are constructive or destructive in the workplace depends on your responsibilities and priorities.”

[Read: How to achieve Inbox Zero with these Gmail search queries]

What’s really missing is the need to teach appropriate skills that work for different styles and that help you to manage your inbox without getting obsessed.

Andrew recommends you:

  • Set times where you check your emails
  • Turn off notifications
  • Set an ‘Out Of Office’ if you are not able to answer to prevent any ’email anxiety’ forming.
  • Make people aware you might be slow to reply with an automatic responder can also help put your mind at ease and manage expectations. My editor, Már, swears by this.

We also need to help each other by following basic email etiquette, writing clearly, and stating when a task or comment is directed at a specific person in an email always helps to direct attention.

“See email as your tool, not something that controls you. Use it to your advantage and set clear boundaries around how you use it that works for you. If you do not see value in your email, consider what you could change that could make it a better experience for you,” Andrew concludes.

As much as they’re annoying, emails are unlikely to go away altogether. So, it’s really about how you approach your inbox that matters.

If you’re using Inbox Zero and it’s not worked so far — or if you’ve been practicing the ‘wrong’ Inbox Zero — it might be time to give up and reconsider. Regardless of what method you use, or don’t use, don’t let it dictate your life. Just remember, an inbox is supposed to work for you not the other way round.

Anyway, I currently have 22 unread emails sitting in my inbox. I’ve got to go. Good luck!

Published October 22, 2020 — 09:08 UTC

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Keep That Hotdish Hot With 65% Off a Luncia Casserole Carrier, Only $11 With Promo Code

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Luncia Double-Decker Dish Carrier | $11 | Amazon | Promo code SDDU9S7F

It has been a long time since the days we could safely have a potluck or other gatherings, but we have a fantastic deal perfect for once those times return. These double-decker Luncia dish carriers can be had for 65% off when you add promo code SDDU9S7F at checkout and clip the coupon on the site (it’s just below the price). These holders fit 9″x 13″ sized baking dishes.

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That means you can insulate and keep two dishes of food warm for only $11 instead of $30. What’s more, your Luncia carrier will arrive by Christmas if you order today as a Prime member.

Just add promo code SDDU9S7F and clip the 5% off coupon to bring the price down to $11 for the blue or the grey option.

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Grab this offer while it’s still around!


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Conquer Your Pup’s Dander and Fur With $700 Off a Cobalt or Charcoal Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum

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Best Home DealsBest Home DealsThe best home, kitchen, smart home, and automotive deals from around the web, updated daily.

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Cobalt) | $200 | Best Buy

Bobsweep PetHair Plus Robot Vacuum & Mop (Charcoal) | $200 | Best Buy

Allergies can be bad enough as the seasons change. Don’t let pet hair and dander add to that by vacuuming it up early and often. That chore is easier said than done— unless you have a robot vacuum to do the work for you. This lovely bright cobalt Bobsweep PetHair Plus robot vacuum and mop, only $200 today at Best Buy seems like an ideal option. That’s a whopping $700 off, by the way.

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You can get the same deal for the charcoal version of the robot vac, too. This model is not only specially made for picking up pet hair, it self docks and charges when it’s finished with the work.

It also comes with a mop attachment, so it can take care of those kitchen floors for you as well. Grab it while it’s still available for this fantastic price!

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Apple will replace AirPods Pro for free with faulty noise cancellation, static or crackling

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Today, exactly one year after Apple first launched the AirPods Pro — and thus the same day the very first AirPods Pro owners will see their one-year warranties expire — Apple has launched a repair program that offers free repairs or replacements for another whole year if your AirPods Pro experience issues with noise cancellation or static.

Specifically, Apple will fix:

Crackling or static sounds that increase in loud environments, with exercise or while talking on the phone

Active Noise Cancellation not working as expected, such as a loss of bass sound, or an increase in background sounds, such as street or airplane noise

Apple says only a “small percentage of AirPods Pro” are affected by the issues, but it apparently wasn’t just an early batch — Apple says affected units were manufactured “before October 2020,” meaning every AirPods Pro ever made might be eligible. That’s quite a recall if so. Apple says it will repair faulty AirPods Pro for two years after you first buy them.

We’ve heard complaints about degraded noise cancellation before, and at least one Verge editor has replaced their AirPods Pro under warranty. It’s nice to hear that Apple isn’t just cutting buyers off as soon as that warranty expires.

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