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Inbox zero, stage six

You may remember that during winter break, I was making an effort at getting to and staying at inbox zero. It’s now the middle of February, so let’s look where we stand.

I got a nice note from an alum that described how they maintain inbox zero.

I spent about a week at inbox zero each day.

Then I found that I was keeping things in my inbox so that I could remember to do them. It’s clear to me that inbox zero has to be part of a larger organizational system, and I don’t quite have that system in place. But I was keeping my inbox under 50, and I was getting all my mail read, and that felt good. I think I stayed at that level for a few weeks.

I’ll note that it wasn’t easy. There were days in which I’d get more than 100 messages in the time it took me to teach my 9 a.m. class and have a meeting at 10 a.m. There were days that by the time I sat down at my desk in the evening to go through email, I’d have 250 or so messages to clear through.

And so the number in the inbox crept ever so slightly upward.

Then I noticed some oddities. Mail I knew had been in my inbox and that I had archived in the 2016 folder didn’t appear as a result in searches on [1]. Although both my Mac and my iPhone reported no messages in the inbox earlier than February 1, 2017, Office 365 showed many such messages. Clearly something was up.

Then 2000 old messages suddenly appeared in my inbox. So I moved them to the archive folder. But I remained concerned that I wasn’t finding messages in searches.

So I did the sensible thing. First, I ran Outlook for Macintosh [2] to see what messages it still knew about and to move those to the appropriate archive boxes [3]. Then I removed my Grinnell Exchange account from What happened when I added the Grinnell Exchange account back to

Yes, that’s right, I ended up with 190,000 messages in my inbox! I don’t know why, but the communication between and Exchange seems to have become undone. A day later, and it’s still trying to download messages.

Did I ever mention how much I hate computers [4].

Back to square zero. Or is that square 190,000?

I’m going to try once again to archive the files in appropriate folders, but I’m going to try checking how well it worked along the way. Then I’m going to learn about Getting Things Done and find appropriate software for following that process [5].

Wish me luck!

[1] It did, however, appear when I searched on Office365.

[2] Okay, maybe that’s not so sensible.

[3] Along the way, I discovered that allowing Outlook to download all of my mail consumed about 15GB on my hard drive.

[4] You may wonder why I work as a computer scientist if I hate computers. You should note that almost every profession these days involve computers. If I have to work with them, I might was well know how to control them from time to time.

[5] I hear that lots of folks appreciate OmniFocus [6]; I’m trying to convince the College that we should do a bulk order to save money.

[6] Yes, I should probably look for a good FOSS alternative. But I don’t currently know of one. And I don’t have the time to develop one.

Version 1.0 of 2017-02-13.