Inbox Many

This is an pretty old post from my blog, which has been preserved in case its content is of any interest. You might want to go back to the homepage to see some more recent stuff.

There’s been a recent increase in productivity-related posts on Lifehacker, so inspired by that I thought I’d share how I “get things done”, and hopefully swap tips with others!

My approach is simple: I attempt “Inbox Zero”. And deliberately fail.

After several years of attempting to keep a clean inbox, having any messages at all sitting there really annoys me.  I use that to my advantage and end up doing the polar opposite of “Inbox Zero” – that is, I use my inbox as my to-do list.  Whenever I think of something I need to do, I write a short e-mail, usually just a subject line, and send it to whatever inbox is appropriate for the task (work or home).

It has the advantage of simplicity – while corporate firewalls could prevent me from using a todo.txt and a filofax could be left at home, there’s virtually no situation when I’m more than a few feet from a device that can do e-mail.

And the worry that “Inbox Zero” was designed to address – huge inboxes that get piled up with junk that never gets acted on – is avoided because having those e-mails in my inbox, even though I put them there, is annoying enough that I clear them as soon as possible.

I’ve taken to calling the technique “Inbox Many”.

So, great untamed hordes of the internet – I’m intrigued. How do you lot get things done?


i ask you to remind me about things and you always (invariably) forget too and then i write it in biro on the back of my hand and then it eventually gets done... sort of...

Get things /done?/


Keep meaning to start using the promisey-t'ing for exercise'n'writing, but y'know, effort.


I agree on the "inbox zero" being unproductive point... and since my life is made of digital todo lists that OTHER PEOPLE put things on, all of which are naturally high-priority (who the hell would ever ask someone to do something that was not important?), I am permanently reducing and condensing todo lists. therefore i usually have a scrap of paper near by that holds the 'current' todo list, and stuff gets crossed of when it is done or no longer high priority. If the list does not fit on the piece of paper, the rest gets forgotten until there is space to thing about it.

and if after a couple of weeks its not done and no one is chasing me for it, it was probably not actually that important in the first place.

I work like this too. Currently sat on 12 emails in home inbox, and 135 in my work inbox. I would say oops, but I know of at least 30 that could be dealt with tomorrow if it wasn't for the fact I'm working on a particular project at the moment. Pet peeve? Being copied into work emails I have no interest in but should probably know about!

I have been through exactly the same phases to end up in the same position. I compare my inbox to a radar screen. I have learned to accept that an empty radar screen is nice objective, but it's not going to happen.

Add a Comment