Does this look like nirvana to you or does it strike fear into your heart?
To some people, a clean inbox is the ideal end of day situation, while to others, it means that nobody loves them. Some people achieve the empty inbox with a ruthless regime of dutiful responding and remoreseless deleting. And some achieve it more simply, through the practice known as Email Bankruptcy, invented or possibly discovered by Lawrence Lessig about two years ago. Simply put, this means deleting all your email and telling everybody that you did so and starting over. See also The Washington Post on the topic this Spring.
Sounds a bit like that (I hope) apocryphal story about the post office workers returning from a strike and burning all the built up mail rather than having to deliver it.
Getting back from a few weeks on the road, this was sounding pretty good to me. Then I saw this piece by Michael Osterman questioning the value of the empty inbox via Permessa’s excellent email blog. Osterman doesn’t let me off the hook for answering important email or cleaning up junk, but he does observe that
In short, an email inbox is a growing archive of content that is more useful the bigger it gets. Paring it down to nothing each time you check email will prevent you from deriving much of the value that email provides.
So my bloated inbox is actually a valuable content archive. I feel much better. Flagging, tagging and searching are good things even in the sometimes difficult world of Outlook. Now how do I get people to stop adding to that valuable archive every day so I can get some work done?