Stop Chasing Inbox Zero, Practice Attention Management Instead

Stop Chasing Inbox Zero, Practice Attention Management Instead
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Clearing out everything in your inbox feels great. You get a sense of accomplishment and your to-do list feels a little less burdensome. Except, productivity isn’t measured by how many emails you answer. Instead, learn to manage how you spend your attention.

Photo by Matthew G.

In the modern world more than ever, attention is currency. What you pay attention to determines where your productive energy gets spent. By treating your inbox as a measure of productivity, you give away your most productive hours to other people. Worse yet, sending emails just begets more emails. While communication is great when it’s necessary, email on its own is merely a tool. As news site Quartz explains:

Armed with gadgets, we have never been better equipped to “maximise our time.” Our ever-present phones allow us to fill all our time productively, to communicate in real-time, and to juggle multiple tasks, swatting away incoming demands like some super-charged task-ninja, potent and efficient. As we seek to maximise our time, we slice and dice it into ever-smaller increments. This leads to what Brigid Schulte calls time-confetti; however, the real impact isn’t on our time, but on our attention. When we scatter our attention across a thousand micro-activities, we prevent ourselves from engaging deeply or thinking properly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that email is evil. If you have a message you need to reply to, respond. If you need to send a message because it will help you accomplish work, send that email. Beyond necessary communication, however, email can be just as much of a distraction as it is a helpful tool. Learning when it’s productive to pay attention to email and when you should ignore it is a necessary skill.

Time management is only making our busy lives worse [Quartz via 99u]


  • Nonononono!
    This advice still applies about what you respond to, but if you’re going to ignore an email, just delete it instead.


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