Inbox Infinity

October 4, 2007

For the past several months, there’s been various adulations around the Interweb about Inbox Zero, the somewhat ninja-like discipline of maintaining complete mastery over one’s email life, with the emphasis on the “zero.” That is: Get everything out of your inbox with speed like cheetah.

The gist of some of this is simple: get mail the hell out of your way. I’m wondering if I’m the only dork who actually takes an opposite approach. We can call it Inbox Infinity.

I currently have 19,093 messages in my inbox and I am at absolute peace. This is my reality:

  1. A few filters do get things out of my way because those things are boring or non-critical. In that way, I do follow the Inbox Zero philosophy. Incoming bug tickets at work, postings in a letterpress mailing list, those get routed out of my way.
  2. Everything else goes in my inbox. I read it. Sometimes not completely. If it’s from someone I care about, I usually write back. If there’s no direct question in it, I might elect not to. I harbor no guilt about this. I trust my ability to judge whether or not I need to respond.
  3. If I’m afraid I might forget to follow up on something (which really only happens on my busiest days), I flag it. I use OS X’s MailApp, but I’ve never heard of a client without a flagging or priority feature. It’s not hard. If the mail content represents a concrete to-do, I add an item to my to-do list (I use Ta-Da List).
  4. If something is obviously of no future use (a co-worker saying they’ll be out for a while for an appointment, Banana Republic’s latest sale notice, or other Bacn): DELETE.
  5. My lyza dot com mail is hosted at a good email-specific provider with a hell of a spam filter.
  6. That’s it. I have no emotional concern with the almost 20 thousand emails left. The search filtering in MailApp is completely sufficient for me to look up anything I might need, ever again.


  1. Autumn says:


    Its not as though I set out to be a person on the leading edge of any techo-philosophy, but as I am addicted to my email with a crack-like loyalty, I find that I never have anything in my inbox for longer than about 15 seconds.

    Everything is archived. But then I’m always a little sad when I go to check my mail from my phone and it says “No Mail Here!” with such smugness.

    Perhaps it’s time to rethink my habitude on this one…

  2. Brett says:

    Inbox Zero is a social solution to a technical problem. People get hundreds of emails; it’s not their fault. Archive everything, index it, and forget about it until you need it. I delete any automated email or mail list post daily. They’re archived, I can find them if I need them.

    Stuff like Google Desktop goes a long way to helping with this.

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