Is A Cluttered Inbox Bad For You?

Or should we all just believe in The Gospel of Not Caring?

Is A Cluttered Inbox Bad For You?

“I am a ridiculously neat and organized person, and smugness suits me just fine, so the idea that my in-box could be as tidy as my closet has great appeal, ” Sam Grobart confides to Businessweek. “But I’ve tried all the big services, and I’m here to preach a new gospel: the Gospel of Not Caring.”


The Gospel of Not Caring, he goes on to say, is founded on the most fundamental of facts: “emails aren’t objects.” Unlike, say, a renegade remote control that’s looking at you askance from across the coffee table, they don’t need to be fiddled with to satisfy the feng shui of your desk, sofa, bathroom, or wherever you do your best emailing.

This is, from Grobart’s language, a Gospel in incurious inquiry:

“Who cares if my in-box has 16,000? Who cares if my “All Mail” folder has more than 100,000?”

If we may venture an inference, that devil-may-care inboxing evidences a different sense of function with the email. It’s kind of like going for a walk in the park: You might want to step to it and get your heart rate going, but your partner just wants to have a slow stroll.

In the same way, Grobart says that he uses his Gmail accounts as a “second memory” and “private Wikipedia” allowing him to search through email address and phone numbers without having to fuss with folders, labels, or other groundwork. While this is certainly true, not everyone uses their email in the same way.

Most people use email as a terrible to-do list: That was the insight that prompted Gentry Underwood to leave his gig at Ideo and cofound Orchestra, whose post-pivot app Mailbox recently got them acquired by Dropbox for a reported $100 million.

You could compare the way you use your inbox to the way you eat your lunch–it’s not the meal itself, but the function of it that predicts your productivity.


Hat tip: Businessweek

[Image: Flickr user Rob]

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.