Skip to main content

Inbox zero, stage eight (declaring inbox bankruptcy)

Given all of the problems I’ve had with moving email messages out of my inbox, I had ended up giving up on inbox zero for much of this semester. However, I really like being at inbox zero, or close to it. When there’s a lot of email in my inbox, I tend to skip over messages and decide I’ll come back to them later. But it’s often the case that later never comes. So I once again made the vow to get to inbox zero [1].

As you may recall, I’ve been using on my Mac to refile old messages, mostly in large batches to archive folders. After all, the nice thing about a sensible email program is that you can search quickly, so detailed filing should not be necessary [2]. Unfortunately, and our Exchange server don’t communicate all that well [3]. That means that the messages that appear to have left my inbox on my Mac still appear in my inbox when I’m on Office365. What’s been my solution in the past? I’ve removed the account from and reloaded it. Unfortunately, that approach requires a few days to reload my account onto my Mac [4].

I started to write this next episode on 23 March 2017 [5], but I didn’t get very far, as other work interfered. At that point, indicated that it was downloading 598,848 messages from our Exchange server. Of those, 4175 were from 2017 and 1303 of those 4175 were unread.

So I started once again on or around 22 April 2017. I discovered, once again, that things I had thought I’d moved in hadn’t really moved. So I did the only sensible thing [6]: I decided to move the email in Outlook Web Access [7]. It’s much less convenient to move email in OWA. But, hey, you have to do the work somewhere.

While I was moving those messages, I was watching Mail.ap re-download messages. I was going to say that it only had 547,097 message, but that number kept increasing. It eventually reached 620,143. That’s utterly terrifying. Of course, since it was downloading while I was moving messages, it may have had to download messages twice. Still, it’s a lot. When I next have free time [8], I’m going to do some cleanup.

On 23 April 2017, I finally finished moving the messages prior to 2016. At that point, I found that I had 6559 messages from 2017 (starting January 23, when I gave up on inbox zero) to today. Of those 6559, 2359 were unread. That suggests that in one month in which I regularly read, filed, and even deleted messages, I still accumulated another 2,300 or so messages in my inbox and another 1,000 unread messages. That means I skipped about 35 messages each day and read but did not file or delete another 40 or so each day. I think I understand why inbox zero is such a challenge.

What did I decide to do with those 6559 messages? It’s clearly time to declare inbox bankruptcy. Okay, maybe not what many people mean when they declare inbox bankruptcy, which involves deleting the messages, but maybe a less stressful form, which just involves archiving them without looking at them right now. I see that Lifehacker allows archiving as part of bankruptcy.

I must admit that it feels weird to have an empty inbox. I keep looking there, wondering where all the things to deal with are. What’s really weird is that it has now stayed empty for about an hour. No, wait. Once I wrote that, six more messages appeared. And then another three appeared while I was reading and reflecting on those six. But I got through them.

A few hours later, I’m still at inbox zero. But I know that it won’t last easily. I still need to find a way to handle the email messages that require non-trivial followup. I should probably work on developing a strategy for managing my workload. Fortunately, it’s only four weeks until summer and I’ll have time to learn Getting Things Done. I’ll struggle through until then.

We’ll see. I’ll update you in a few weeks.

[1] My stack of exams to grade also provided some incentive for me to find something else that I wanted to do.

[2] I will admit that there are times that I find it useful to have things filed carefully in folders. I do try to keep up with that, but I’m not going to do so with my backlog of messages.

[3] Who would’ve thought? Apple products and Microsoft products don’t always communicate well.

[4] No, really.

[5] Started to write means, I wrote down some numbers and notes. The paragraphs at the start of this musing are new.

[6] Arguably, there are either many sensible things or no sensible things to do when you have this many messages. And no, I don’t consider Delete all of your old email sensible.

[7] Alternately, OWA.

[8] I’m going to pretend that I will eventually have free time.

Version 1.0 of 2017-03-23.