‘Treat Email Like Milk, Not Precious Heirlooms’

‘Treat Email Like Milk, Not Precious Heirlooms’

With the unlimited storage that Gmail and Outlook offer now, you might be tempted never to delete your emails. But that’s not how you get to Inbox Zero. For that, you need a change in mindset. A tidbit from Merlin Mann, who invented the Inbox Zero practice, might be the shift in approach that you need:

Stop thinking of emails like precious family heirlooms, and start treating ’em like pints of milk. Perishable, time-stamped milk that becomes a little less fresh every day until it smells kind of funny and just needs to be dumped. Believe me, there will always be more coming.

Mann rightly says that the relevance of an email is directly proportional to its recency. The older an email gets, the less important it becomes. So there’s usually not much reason for you to save them. At best, you can archive such mails and move on. In short, learn to detach from your digital heirlooms and manage your mind space instead.

Inbox Zero: Better Practices for staying (near) zero [43Folders]


  • Not sure what the advantage of getting rid of old emails is. Archiving gets them out of your life but keeps them available for the occasional moment when you need some detail from the past. With storage cheap or free, there’s no reason to delete anymore. Inbox zero is perfectly feasible even if your archive has thousands of messages in it.

    • Same same; I have thousands of emails retained in my Gmail, but still regularly achieve Inbox Zero as they are dealt with, and archived into one or more of the Gmail “labels” system. It has come in handy many times also, retaining all that information with easy search abilities on it all.

  • As someone working in Digital Forensics, please keep all your emails. kthanks.

    • Why would you be looking at my emails? Knowing I discussed my project work with a client or booked school holiday activities in 2015 is useful to you how?

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