Happiness is an empty inbox

Tim Ferriss (4-Hour Work Week guru) takes exception to a quote by Mark Hurst (no, never heard of him before either) in his blog post: Time Management Guru-itis: Mark Hurst vs. David Allen and Tim Ferriss.

One sentence from this quote struck me as particularly note-worthy:

The last time I checked, the amount of e-mail you get is not a function of how often you check e-mail.”

This is, quite frankly, bollocks.

Since I’ve got into the habit of only checking email twice a day, the number of emails coming into my inbox has decreased substantially.  There are a multitude of reasons why this is the case, but here’s two I can think of off the top of my head:

  1. Since I reply less frequently, I get replies to my replies less frequently, so I reply less frequently, and so on.  It’s a virtuous circle.
  2. If I’m being asked to do something urgently, people now actually pick up the phone or, gasp, speak to me, as they realise that sending an email with an ‘urgent’ flag on it does not mean that they have made a request. ((I’m actually thinking of setting up an auto-responder to emails with an ‘urgent’ flag or with ‘urgent’ in the subject line, along the lines of “If your request is truly urgent, i.e. needs doing within 24 hours, please contact me using a more appropriate communication method.  If your request isn’t that urgent, please refrain from using the ‘urgent’ flag or the word ‘urgent’ in the subject line.”))
The 4-Hour Work Week is about a lot more than just inbox management, but if you’re looking for a way to get some control over the inbox beast, I highly recommend the chapters on ‘Elimination’.


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