Your Inbox Is Not a To-Do List

Among the endless supply of useful posts about enhancing your productivity available at Zen Habits is this recent piece by simplicity addict Leo Babuata, which addresses a particular behavior many of us are accustomed to: using our e-mail inboxes as a to-do list.

Your Inbox is not Your To-Do ListDon’t do it, says Babuata, for five reasons.

  1. You can’t change the subject lines.
  2. There might be multiple actions in each message.
  3. You typically can’t reorder the messages.
  4. You can’t prioritize your to-dos.
  5. An e-mail inbox is full of distractions, including more incoming e-mail.

I’m a neatnik by nature, and am always staggered when I encounter someone who has 100 or more messages in their inbox. In my life, every incoming message either gets filed or deleted immediately. As a result, my inbox is always nearly empty, and I feel good about it. Being in a state of constant response, the experts argue, is like playing tennis with ten people on the other side of the court. All you can do is run around and swat things back without ever having the time or mind space to think, plan, and prioritize.

So find another way to track your tasks, says Babuata – any other way. Use a pad of paper, a stack of index cards, an always-open Notepad file on your desktop, or one of any of those "getting it done" philosophies that productivity gurus are always talking about.

– Don Willmott

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