Inbox Zero? Why Not Inbox Giganticus?

We hear lots about “Inbox Zero” and why it should be the goal of every business professional. The purpose of emptying one’s mailbox, according to the proponents of this approach to mailbox management, is to eliminate clutter, get better at prioritizing tasks, delegate work to others, de-stress, gain more control over one’s information, or some combination of these and other factors.

But is it a good idea?

Yes, if you view email solely as a communications platform. No, if you view email as a combination of communications, file transfer, file storage and business intelligence. I fall into the latter camp — here’s why:

  • Email storage is cheap: from a cost perspective, there’s no advantage of minimizing email storage in an era of 50-gigabyte or larger mailboxes.
  • Keeping old email is useful: you can search years’ worth of email quickly and easily to retrieve old communications with clients, colleagues, prospects and the like. You can see what files you sent others and when they were sent. You can easily resend information that was not received by a recipient. You can follow conversations in email to see how they develop. You can determine how quickly people respond to your emails. Yes, all of these things can be done with a good archiving system, but not all businesses have an archiving platform (even though they should), particularly small businesses.
  • It can make you more efficient: instead of spending time reviewing, filing, deleting or otherwise managing emails on a daily basis, you can simply ignore the less important ones until you have the time or inclination to deal with them. Moreover, you can deal with some types of emails in batch mode on a weekly or monthly basis instead of handling each email individually every day.
  • You have a defensible a record of your conversations: in the event that someone disagrees with your record of what happened with a client or a vendor, for example, an email thread can easily support your position and quickly resolve any disagreements that might occur.
  • It saves you time: even if it takes only three seconds to deal with each email, someone receiving 150 emails each work day will save about 31 hours per year by not clearing his or her inbox each day.

Just my two cents for your consideration.