Welcome to Inbox Zero
most productivity stuff is a waste of time and energy, you consume too much content, this post almost got lost in my notes, lent log off
The best way to support Seeking Tribe—other than sending me money (my dms are open)— is to share this with people who will love it:
Over time, I have become a bigger skeptic of all things ‘productivity’*. The funny part is how much time I spent in my late teens, early twenties reading about processes and software. There was a point in the 2010s when this kind of ‘hustle’ content was viral on Facebook. While I think most of this was just SEO content, designed to maximize clicks and ad-revenue, or affiliate conversions, perhaps what has replaced it isn’t better.
It can feel like the platform internet has trended from articles like “5 Excel Tips to Ensure You Get the Big Promotion” to “Why Hating Your Neighbor Is Good, Actually”.
However, I think bringing your inbox to zero is valuable and simple. How you want to achieve this is up to you. You can go down a rabbit hole of identifying the perfect software, processes, etc if that’s your personality type. I don’t want to spend my nights and weekends doing that but I’m sure I spend my nights and weekends doing stuff that you think is dumb. Like playing Dominion with my friends online (yes, this is an invitation).
I’ll briefly tell you why I think inbox zero is valuable and my simple process.
*not including ReadWise (not a paid sponsorship or affiliate link)
Doesn’t this picture say it all?
Imagine compulsively opening up your email and seeing nothing in there. You just immediately close the tab/app and continue on with your life. No lingering ad from a restaurant you went to five years ago bombarding your psyche. No stream of email newsletters—like this one— sitting there and taunting you for your prior-self’s ambition.
Remember when you signed up for that free online python course?
Your inbox will never let you forget.
How many of the emails that enter your inbox are you reading? Or maybe the better question is: what percentage of them do you wish were immediately archived or never received?
Before I cleared out the two emails in there to take that screenshot, this is what they were:
A link to a GoogleDoc created by a client (I am a free lance writer and consultant for hire) to remind me to write a rough draft for a piece asap
A note for a meme idea that I sent myself after riffing with my buddy Matt at a party
The former has been added to a list of my priorities for the upcoming week—although maybe I’ll just get it done today. The latter has been added to a list of blog and meme ideas. Previously, I would have just added the meme or blog idea to a generic notes app on my phone. I would never see it again. Or I would stumble upon it months later (while in a low-energy, bored state) and it would have no context or relevancy.
Emailing myself instead has helped me to follow through on more of these ideas or recommendations. I will pull my phone out and quickly send myself a little note in the subject line of an email. There’s not much context needed because I’ll see it by the next morning. Many of the recommendations or ideas still end up getting archived and banished from my mind but that was a conscious choice, not just a process failure.
There are essentially two intended audiences that come to mind who are still reading this and want to have inbox zero:
People with 13,865 emails in their inbox
People with 78 emails in their inbox
If you have thousands of emails in your inbox, chances are that you will never look 99.992% of them ever again. They simply shouldn’t be there because you’ve already demonstrated that you will never care about them. Archiving (lower-risk) or deleting them likely doesn’t require much intentional action at all. You can probably just follow this guide or maybe try this software’s free trial. (I have not used the software but it says it’s free and has solid reviews).
Just do it.
If you think of a specific email you need later, you can just search for it (if you archived it) and put it back into your inbox—or ideally take a more concrete action.
If you have 78 emails in your inbox, then you will likely need to be intentional about removing them. In theory, you’ve kept those emails in your inbox for specific reasons. They might not be a good reasons. They are likely aspirational—a reflection of a version of yourself that you’d like to become, like the free online python course referenced above. Oh what could have been? I empathize with you.
Here are my tips for you to get to zero:
Remove all of the articles that you’re saving to read later—instead of keeping these in your inbox, I highly recommend using OneTab. OneTab is a free chrome and firefox extension that takes all of your tabs and puts them into one tab.
I open up every article that comes into my inbox that interests me into my browser and then I will put them all in one tab. From time to time, I will go through and close everything that is not a priority, purely aspirational. This is much more actionable and requires less time than keeping them in your inbox, or using some kind of bookmarking system.
Organizing articles you might read in the future is a waste of time and cognitive energy, you won’t read between 35-95% of these. They will become rapidly dated and irrelevant to your priorities. Just put them in one tab or never open them to begin with.
Use Unroll.me—a tool to mass unsubscribe from newsletters—or your own presence of mind to reduce the inflow of content into your inbox. You’ll quickly get a handle on what you will actually read and what is just bloat that you waste time archiving every time it falls into your inbox.
Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe.
If anything, you probably consume too much information. You can default to unsubscribing. I tend to oscillate between periods of exploration where I will subscribe and read new things to periods of intense focus where I cut out all the noise. Most everything is noise. We live in a kingdom of noise.
But you will want to ensure you’re subscribed to Seeking Tribe…(okay, you can unsubscribe but at least send me an email):
Hopefully some of you found this useful. If not, maybe you should send it to your productivity-obsessed friend. It’s a slight dig and they might also genuinely enjoy it.
The idea for this post came up when I was walking to the gym the other day. I sent myself an email with the subject ‘welcome to inbox zero’. Later, I added it to my list of blog ideas. Now it is no longer an idea but a blog post. This system works for me. I hope I save at least a few of you as much time as it took me to write this piece.
Favorite Recent Read
Loving Awareness is An Anti-Meme by Sasha Chapin
And as I was meditating the other day, struggling with the subtle effort of trying to let go of effort, it hit me: vast loving awareness is an anti-meme. Most of your faculties are designed to forget it. It’s something you’re not supposed to hang onto. After all, you are wired for survival: preservation lies at the heart of all your systems, at the heart of everything noticeable and interesting.
Sasha’s Substack is one of the only newsletters that has survived my latest subscription purge. I love his writing and weird, great ideas. Sasha is my kind of weird.
New From Me
Grant is a Big Breakfast Guy on Tweeter's Digest
Community, Bitcoin, and Nuclear Energy on Narratives Podcast
(yeah, you can invite me on your podcast and I’ll probably say yes—for now)
Choosing to Walk (Substack)
Texas’ February 2022 freeze was a crisis averted (for FREOPP)
Are you participating in lent? If so, what did you give up?
I gave up reading twitter, drinking alcohol and beer specifically (a few caveats, ie. friend’s bachelor’s party). There’s value in reducing optionality and intentional abstention, regardless of your religious beliefs.
What if we all just logged off ahahahahaha? unless,,,
If you want accountability during lent, feel free to join this telegram group I created.
Thanks for reading. If you haven’t, I’d appreciate it if you would subscribe.
I am available for freelance writing ($0.25-0.50/word depending on project) and community, social media, and crypto consultations. Likewise, I am open to referrals for full-time jobs that match my skill set and interests.
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This is the most useful post I've read on the internet in quite a while. It has really improved my life! Thank you grant.