What if I never get to Inbox Zero?

Sometimes the need to get to Inbox Zero is oppressive. Each morning I spend my time trying to whittle through the things that have come through overnight, thinking through what needs a response immediately, what I should sit on for a few days, how to tag and categorize each message, and what to just toss. This process takes me about an hour every morning, for one of my best friends, this takes hours every day, in the morning, the afternoon, and late into the evening.

I find myself asking, how does the time we spend alone in email detract from our ability to innovate, try new things, and push our work forward?

This article in The Atlantic outlines a study by McKinsey, which says that we spend 28% of our time reading and responding to email. I believe it. I find myself making ambitious task lists, each morning thinking that I will be able to accomplish and infinite amount of work during the day. I always over estimate. Even when my inbox is closed, the telltale ding from my phone indicating a message pulls me back from whatever I was trying to do.

Now, of course, reducing the time spent on email to zero is unrealistic at this point in time, but what would you do in your job if you got almost a quarter more time? What kind of problems could you address, and what kind of innovative solutions might you arrive at? How is the urgency of replying to messages bogging down your work habits?

In my own job, if I had 25% more time I would spend more time in face to face human interaction. Extra hours would free up time to bounce ideas around with coworkers building out new programming or processes for content delivery. If I could spend 25% less time sorting through often redundant and only slightly important information delivery, I see the sky as being the limit for communication and the sparks that create great new ideas.

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