Chasing the Wrong Zero

Shortly after Merlin Mann posted Chasing the Right Zero I linked to the article, as did most of the internet. With Chasing the Right Zero, Merlin wrote the article I had had simmering on the back burner for months, putting to words my epiphany regarding Inbox Zero and the real meaning behind the philosophy. At the time I felt no need to add anything to his words or quantify my own opinions on the subject, so my linked list post contained nothing but a short pull quote. Merlin had made the real meaning behind Inbox Zero very clear, after all; I had nothing further to add to the conversation. And then Shawn Carolan guest posted an article titled The myth of Inbox Zero and the path to peace of mind on GigaOM. Apparently it was not so clear.

While Shawn appeared to grasp the philosophy behind Inbox Zero on a superficial level, his narrow understanding of the underlying principles behind the mantra was palpable from the onset. Rather than picking Shawn’s piece apart paragraph by paragraph, point by point though, I’ll leave that as an exercise to you the reader and instead post the article I should have months ago.

Inbox Zero is not a rule detailing the number of emails you are allowed to have in your inbox, but a philosophy for governing the number of things allowed to occupy your time and attention. The inbox, from which this ideology got its name, was simply the most obvious situation in which the doctrine that eventually evolved in to Inbox Zero applied, and thus the name was derived. Inbox Zero is much more than a simple way to manage your email: it’s a way of life, a mantra Merlin conjured to give those of us inundated by things inessential to our survival and detrimental to our well being a recourse.

There is no magic here, just good, old-fashioned common sense. And there’s nothing mythical about that.