1109 GMT October 17, 2019
At the beginning of each year, many of us look at our overflowing inboxes with horror, then make a resolution: No longer will our email account be burdened with thousands of unread messages. Instead, it will become gloriously empty. You will leave work each day knowing that you have dealt with every single message.
Devotees of ‘inbox zero’ say that having a clean email account is like having a clean conscience. No guilt about unanswered messages, no anxiety, no vague sense of impending doom, theguardian.com wrote.
Maintaining an empty inbox may sound easy — just delete the lot and start again from scratch. But while purging your inbox can take seconds, keeping it empty requires the kind of devotion most of us don’t have real devotion; the kind of dedication and time that many of us simply don’t have.
So, instead of feeling bad about thousands of unread messages, an American journalist has suggested an alternative: ‘inbox infinity’.
Rather than trying to deal with every single email, let them pile up, and allow the digital tide to wash over you. Accept that the number of messages in your inbox will always be infinite because the time you have to deal with them will always be finite.
Some devotees of inbox infinity do their best to answer as many emails as they can. Others have taken to extreme measures, such as setting up a permanent out-of-office reply with other ways of reaching them.
There are even some people who don’t use email at all. The film director Christopher Nolan shuns email entirely.
Inbox infinity seems a great way of dealing with the endless deluge of emails. It stops you wasting your time endlessly dealing with emails. It also can; a liberation from the guilt and anxiety that our inboxes often inspire.
But it does not come without risks. Neglecting emails may make you seem unprofessional. Colleagues and friends may think it is a sign that you don’t care. It could even cut you out of crucial communications. But for some, it really is the only practical option. After all, how can anyone deal with 500 emails when there are only 480 minutes in the average working day?
*André Spicer is professor of organizational behavior at the Cass Business School at City, University of London.