My Dirty Little Secret: An Email Box Is Not A To Do List Violation

SecretZenHabits recently published “The Dirty Little Secrets of Productivity Bloggers” about how bloggers and productivity professionals don’t always follow all the rules of productivity. Today I’ll admit it too- I’m not always productive. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a secret- people aren’t perfect and sometimes it’s more fun not to be perfectly productive. Here I’ll point out one way I violate my own rule of keeping an empty inbox, but why it makes me more productive. First lets’ start with the rule:

An Email Box is Not a To Do List

One of the most common reasons people don’t empty their inbox is because they keep it as a to do list. Here are 5 reasons I point out for why an inbox is not a to do list:

  1. Clear To-Do List– If your inbox and your to do list both have to dos then there is a lot of going back and forth trying to figure out what to do.
  2. Have Specific Information on Tasks– It’s hard to know what to do on email message because the subject line isn’t clear (e.g. “fwd: Re> Hi”).
  3. Nothing Gets Lost– Too many messages makes it hard to manage an inbox to do list.
  4. Easy to see new urgent items– With many messages it’s hard to see what’s important.
  5. Clear Head– Everything has a place: to dos go on a list. Inboxes need to be processed.

Keeping an empty inbox helps you know what you need to accomplish.

My violation

I sometimes keep messages in my inbox as a to do list.

My Reasons

I keep messages as my to do list to remind me to reply later that day. I feel that putting it on my to do list may add some extra steps to find it and it may get cluttered with my other responsibilities so I dont get to it the same day.

Now let’s see how my system goes against the five reasons above and may not be a bad violation:

  1. Clear To-Do List- With minimal items in my inbox it isn’t that hard to see what to do and it keeps these important items front and center.
  2. Have Specific Information on Tasks- Being that i read the emails earlier in the day it’s still fresh in my mind what i need to do about them.
  3. Nothing Gets Lost- With minimal messages no dos get lost.
  4. Easy to see new urgent items- With minimal messages it’s easy to spot what’s important.
  5. Clear Head- Everything still has it’s place. Important to dos for today are in my inbox.

As you see my excuse has some logic to it. Perhaps it can be considered an advances hack. As long as I don’t abuse it I’m fine violating this tenet.

What productivity rules do you violate?

photo credit: Duquesa Mercedes

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