How many unopened emails do you have in your inbox right now? Do you strive to get to zero? I wanted to know what my colleagues at ZeroBounce think about achieving Inbox Zero, so I asked them.
Also, impressed by how quickly he replies to emails, I reached out to Entrepreneur editor-in-chief Jason Feifer. Is he an Inbox Zero practitioner? You’ll find out.
As an email validation company, we love email. With a team from around the world, it’s our primary communication channel. We never get tired of talking about email, and Inbox Zero is such an intriguing topic.
What is Inbox Zero?
Coined back in 2007, by productivity expert Merlin Mann, Inbox Zero is an email management strategy. It aims at helping us clear all the messages in our inbox daily, so “we can focus on doing our best creative work.”
But is that really what Inbox Zero does? Where do ZeroBouncers stand? Keep reading – everyone responded, including our CEO Liviu Tanase.
Of course, I collected all these answers via email. 😊
Brian Minick, Chief Operating Manager
Ha! I think you already know how I stand on this.
My goal every single day is to have 0 inbox emails. As soon as I get there, boom, it’s at 12 again! I strive to get to 0, but wow, is it tough to keep up with it.
Usually, I wake up and have between 75-100 emails that I generally just need to mark as read. Maybe only three or five are important and need my attention.
I get a lot of notifications but they don’t necessarily require an action. I sometimes wish I did not have this desire to have 0 unread emails. Other days, I feel the opposite.
Also, email is my to-do list. I will send myself emails to make sure I get things done. So, 0 unread emails to me means nothing has fallen through the cracks.
Anca Vasile, Customer Support Trainer
Do you want to hear the truth or an answer that would make me look good?
Ok, the truth is that I have 39,981 emails in my inbox right now. As some of my colleagues were saying, we’re already aware of the content of these emails – they’re copies of the Zendesk conversations with our customers.
I really don’t have time to open all of them. For about six months now, I’ve been trying to reduce that number, and I did! There were around 53,000 emails just sitting there. So, I made progress.
Inbox Zero? I don’t know about that… yet. 😊
Cezar Mitrenca, Customer Support Team Leader
I have two unopened emails right now in my work inbox.
My personal email? Inbox Zero. I like to read all the mail I get and keep a neat inbox.
Vlad Stoian, Customer Support Team Leader
Right now, I have almost 25,000 unread emails in my inbox. I don’t really aim at getting to zero.
For us at Customer Support it’s hard. We get a lot of automated emails from Zendesk whenever a ticket is updated (so every time we or the client replies). There are so many because I already read them in Zendesk. Thus, it’s easier for me to keep track of what’s been resolved and what is on-going.
Once a month, when I get a chance, I clear out about one- or two-months’ worth of emails. I keep the internal company messages in case I need to reference something, and delete as many of the automated ones as I can.
However, I keep some of the older ones, just in case I need to find a piece of information from three months ago. Once three- or four-months pass, I doubt I’ll ever need them, so I delete them.
Maririta Kaplanian, Customer Support
I like to stay up-to-date with any news I may get. Also, I love shopping, especially when I can get a discount. So, I subscribe to everything I’m interested in.
Unfortunately, sometimes I get overwhelmed and can’t open all the emails I get. However, I can proudly say I reached the awesome number of 1,237 unopened emails. I’ll take care of them during the weekend.
Andreea Veres, Customer Support
Currently, I have one or two unopened emails.
I check my inbox on a regular basis and read all new emails. It’s a good way to avoid missing out on important information.
Iris Iordanoiu, Customer Success
I have about 20,000 unopened emails because I ignored them for a while. Now I strongly regret this decision.
One day, when I find the time, I will establish peace again in my inbox by cleaning it up.
Robert Fundulea, Customer Support
I have around 2,510 emails in my inbox that I haven’t opened.
Most of them are from Zendesk. As a part of the Customer Support team, we get notified about every client that comes and goes, and the chats they have with us. It’s hard to keep track of all those emails, and achieving Inbox Zero is a bit too ambitious for us.
Nevertheless, these emails are important as they help us retrieve any information we need from past chats. That’s why we keep as many as possible, in case anything comes up and we can’t access them from Zendesk.
At some point, I may consider deleting some of them, but only the ones I’m absolutely sure I’ll never need again.
George Ionita, Customer Support
I have three unopened emails in my inbox right now. But I’ll go ahead and read them or just swipe as opened, depending on the type.
Ok, Inbox Zero now! 😊
It turns out those three emails were not that important — they were from some of my subscriptions like Netflix or PlayStation.
As you can see, I like to keep the number of unread emails as close as possible to zero. I do check my inbox several times a day, but not because I’m expecting any vital personal emails. For me, email is more like a source of news on topics that interest me. Maybe this is one of the reasons why so many people check their inbox even on vacation.
In my work email, I have 16 unopened messages. Most of them are from the Zendesk application that creates a ticket for every chat. But we also get emails about procedures we need to follow. Good communication goes a long way, so I always keep an eye on those.
Laura Ioana, Customer Success
Right now? Inbox Zero.
I don’t like it when my inbox gets crowded. I read the important ones and I just delete the others. Checking email is something I do on a daily basis – several times a day, so my inbox stays nice and clean.
Dan Straton, Customer Support
I have around 4,300 unread emails and I’m not aiming to get to zero. However, I do read all important emails every day.
Robert Balanescu, Customer Support
In my personal inbox, I have 280 unread emails. Most of them are either promotions or reminders to pay bills. I find it easier to do a major clean-up once in a while than to handle them as soon as they come.
When it comes to my work email, its nature doesn’t allow me to achieve Inbox Zero. But I make sure to have useful filters in place so I can see important emails easily.
Of course, once in a while, even with all the filters and measures in place, I still somehow manage to miss an email and kick myself for it.
Simona Golescu, Enterprise Success Manager
At this moment, I don’t have any unopened emails. Maybe because I’m very organized, and at the same time, I’m curious. So I like to read and reply fast to all important messages.
Timing is essential and I don’t like to keep customers waiting.
When it comes to my personal email, I must confess I’m not so quick to respond to emails.
Russell Trzaska, Enterprise Success Manager
I’m definitely a bit OCD about having Inbox Zero. I use unopened emails as a way of telling that I need to take action and respond to somebody.
If the email is irrelevant or no action is needed, I will still open it just to keep my inbox clean. This is also a great way for me to know when I receive new emails.
Tudor Cioran, Enterprise Success Manager
At this moment, I have more than 130,000 unopened emails in my work inbox.
At a certain point, it became practically impossible to follow every single email I was receiving. So, I decided I had to take some action. I created a bunch of rules and labeled my emails by colors.
Now I follow only the emails that are actually important. So far, it’s been working very well.
Chris Gallego, Senior Consultant
There are 590 emails in my inbox that I didn’t read. If the subject line isn’t important, I will not open it and archive it.
The truth of the matter is I receive too many emails in a day to go through them all. Especially if it has a spammy subject line.
Of course, my clients’ emails and internal company emails take priority over everything else.
Mihaita Vulpe, SEO Manager
I’ve got around 1,100 unopened emails right now, so I’m pretty far from achieving Inbox Zero.
Whenever I have time, I just select them all and mark them as read. I don’t like to see a huge number of emails in my inbox. At the same time, it’s really hard to get to zero every day.
Austin Helm, Channel Partnership Manager
At this point I have 12 unopened emails in my inbox.
I always bring the number to 0 because I freak out if I see there’s email I haven’t read. For some reason, it’s hard for me to let unopened email sit there.
Eli Mizrahi, Senior Graphic Designer
For me, achieving Inbox Zero was something I strived for when I was just starting to get into tech. Unopened emails always looked like I was avoiding the content, no matter the sender or context.
As I grew up, Inbox Zero was natural. It had embedded itself as a muscle memory. It was no longer something that I needed to expend too much brain power on. Email comes in, I decide the action to take, and I take it. Simple.
I never had a backlog, because I read and addressed everything in the moment. This allowed me to “close out” whatever the emails needed and I was able to move on with my day (at least mentally.)
Reinier Herrera, Senior Front End Developer
Right now, I have zero unread emails on my inbox. I find unread emails very distracting. Sometimes what I do is just open it and give it a quick look. If it is not important, I will just get back to what I was doing.
Many times, one can tell just by looking at the subject line. In those cases, I’ll just mark the email as read.
Noel Lastrella, Senior Front End Developer
I used to care about getting to Inbox Zero. At one point it became impossible. Now I take any unread emails older than three months, mark them as read and archive them.
I try to keep my routines consistent and simple, and I do give all subject lines a glance. Email subject lines are more important than the content within. It doesn’t matter how good the content is if the person doesn’t read it. Always strive to write a good subject line.
Christian Izaguirre, Software Developer
I have only four unopened emails in my inbox right now. The only reason I haven’t opened them is that I know the content of the emails just by looking at the subject line.
I try to keep my inbox as clean as possible by adding labels/folders/filtering. Also, I delete emails I know I’ll never open again. Being organized lets me find any information I need in an efficient manner and leaves a good paper trail.
Plus, someone took the time to write me a message, so the least I can do is open the email and read it.
Jesse Yu, Senior Software Engineer
I have more than 500 unopened emails now, and I don’t strive to get to zero.
Subject lines are decisive, so I read through them. If it doesn’t seem important to me, I just ignore that email.
Jason Shea, Senior Software Architect
I mark all messages as read and keep my inbox clean. If an email needs action, I’ll flag it, pin it, add to tasks or mark it as unread so that I know to address it later.
Henry Timmes, Chief Technology Officer
Inbox Zero? No.
I have more than 65,000 unopened emails right now and I’m not planning to get to zero. The thing is, I don’t use my email like other people do. I record everything — every event, notification or alert.
Every email I receive is important. I use rules to tag them, and most of them are unread because the message is in the subject line.
Valentin Shmidov, Chief Financial Officer
There are 44,179 unopened emails in my inbox. So no, getting to zero isn’t even in the realm of possibility.
I prioritize by sender. George gets top priority, and then my family comes next. 😊
I don’t look at subject lines or bodies, just the sender and it takes effort to delete emails, so I just leave them.
I always wondered if leaving emails untouched in the inbox would affect a sender’s reputation in a more negative manner than deleting it. That’s because I think not caring is worse than being upset. At least Delete means that you instilled enough emotion in an individual for them to take action.
George Berar, Board Member
I do follow Inbox Zero.
Today I was out, just got to my laptop and saw 82 important emails, and this is a moderate day. In a normal day, I receive more than 100.
I have a few separate inboxes: Important, Various projects, Other and Personal. I strive to have Important at zero every day. Then, I take care of Various projects based on their importance level. Other doesn’t get the same attention daily, but I do get it to zero once a week.
My email functions like a task management/ticketing system. So, each email gets assigned to an inbox. Depending on how important it is, I reply to it, snooze it or archive it.
Then, I have another criterion that helps me keep Inbox Zero most of the time. Whenever I get an email, I ask myself: do I have to do this, or can someone else do it? If I have to do it, that email goes into the Important folder. On the other hand, if I can delegate a task or resolve it later, the email goes to Other or it gets snoozed.
The goal is to have 99% of my emails go to Other, but I’m not doing a very good job in that regard.
Liviu Tanase, CEO
Inbox Zero changed the way I work and how I manage email. It’s a great way to be more efficient and productive. In a way, I use email as a task manager because of Inbox Zero.
This is how I strive to follow Inbox Zero:
1. Once I get an email, I immediately ask myself a few questions:
a) Is this important? If so, I may want to take a few minutes to respond (if necessary).
b) Is this something I can answer now? If it is, I answer right away and click done. If not, I either leave it there or snooze it (I think the second option is better).
c) Is this something I needed to receive? If not, I unsubscribe or create a rule to delete it.
d) Do I need to answer this email? If it’s an important message, but it only updates me on a certain matter, I just click done.
1) I receive only the emails I need to receive.
b) I reply almost instantly.
c) I don’t miss any emails (hopefully).
d) Less stress. 😊
Inbox Zero: email nirvana or a “goofy” idea?
Inbox Zero became a topic of debate from the moment Merlin Mann introduced it, in 2007, during a Google Tech Talk.
Some had committed to it long before. Others adopted it immediately. They saw it as the best way to attain email nirvana: zero messages to read, zero action to take, zero stress.
Then came the criticism. For example, Inc.com contributing editor Geoffrey James expressed strong disapproval and even despise towards this “goofy” concept. The argument James makes is that Inbox Zero “puts your valuable time and mental energy at the mercy of every idiot who sends you an email.”
However, when he came up with the strategy, Merlin Mann explained the goal of Inbox Zero isn’t necessarily to have zero unread emails in your inbox. But rather, to reduce “the amount of time an employee’s brain is in the inbox.”
In Mann’s perspective, the sooner you decide how to handle an email, the less energy it consumes you.
Inbox Infinity: letting email messages wash over you
Following Inbox Zero isn’t easy, even when you have the best intentions. To illustrate, here are just a few of the most recent email stats:
- in 2019, worldwide email traffic (business and consumer) has exceeded 293 billion per day.
- on average, a business email user sends and receives 126 emails every day.
- by 2023, email traffic will grow to more than 347 billion messages per day.
It’s a fact: we’re drowning in email. So, is it realistic to shoot for Inbox Zero, considering the amount of email flooding our mailboxes?
Taylor Lorenz, from The Atlantic, makes the case for Inbox Infinity, a concept I’d never heard of before researching this piece. Here’s how Lorenz describes it:
“Adopting inbox infinity means accepting the fact that there will be an endless, growing amount of email in your inbox every day, most of which you will never address or even see. It’s about letting email messages wash over you, responding to the ones you can, but ignoring most.”
Jason Feifer, Entrepreneur magazine: “I don’t strive to get to zero every day.”
As the editor in chief of Entrepreneur, Jason Feifer’s inbox must be a crowded place.
Apart from running the magazine, the journalist hosts three podcasts: Pessimists Archive, Hush Money and Problem Solvers. On top of that, he is a keynote speaker, does one-on-one consulting and wrote a book – “Mr. Nice Guy” – together with his wife, Jennifer Miller.
When I first emailed Jason, about a year ago, I didn’t even think I’d get a response. Surprise: he wrote back within minutes. That happened every time I emailed him. As anyone who works in Public Relations can tell you, that is extremely rare.
I figured Jason is an Inbox Zero kind of guy, but why assume, when I could email and ask him? He replied in 40 minutes, but only because it was a Saturday evening and he was out to dinner with his wife.
This is what Jason said:
“I currently have 58 unread emails across my three email accounts, and dozens more that are in some way or another awaiting further action. I don’t strive to get to zero every day because that’s an impossibility.
My inbox tends to function as a to-do list—I quickly take care of anything that I can (either by replying, deleting, or taking action), and if it’s unread, it means I’ll get to it later.
Maybe if I had an assistant, I’d have a less chaotic inbox. But it’s just me, so I work through the digital clutter as best I can.”
Where do you stand in the Inbox Zero debate?
So, to inbox zero or to not inbox zero? Where do you stand?
I’ve been a fan of Inbox Zero before I even knew it had a name.
For 12 years, I worked as a journalist and was getting around 100 emails a day. Some of them would end up in the Trash folder, but I made sure to scan both of my inboxes religiously. Most of my work implied phone calls and face-to-face interactions, but I still got great tips and pitches via email.
Now, I’m even more connected to my inbox, because most of my communication happens there. Also, email is an efficient task management system for me, just like it is for Liviu, George and Jason. So, not opening messages for days – or weeks – is out of the question. It gives me anxiety and consumes my mental energy.
There are only two types of emails I’ll keep unread for more than a day:
- those that require an action I can’t take right away. I mark them as unread so I can return to them later.
- emails I love getting and want to take the time to savor. For example, MarketingProfs, Content Marketing Institute and The CEO Library send newsletters packed with awesome information. Ann Handley, Jason Feifer and Ryan Holiday send long, wonderful emails that require some quiet to enjoy. So, I save them as a feast for the weekend.
During the week, yes, I check my email often. You could say it affects my productivity and creates stress. On the contrary: it gives me peace to know I’m on top of things.
However, I don’t have any notifications on my phone. Not for email, Facebook, Instagram or other apps. My time away from the computer is sacred. If I’m gone for more than a couple of hours, I’ll refresh my inbox manually.
It’s really all about balance, isn’t it?