Yesterbox: answer yesterday’s email, today

Yesterbox is a technique from Zappo's CEO Tony Hseih that redefines the task of email management. Rather than aim for an "inbox zero" for today's email (a never-ending task), he calls for answering today's mail tomorrow, and yesterday's mail today. Every message gets a one day delay unless it's so urgent that has to be dealt with right away.

The biggest problem with "inbox zero" is that it's impossible to be caught up for any length of time, since you need to be always on the alert for new messages. In contrast, "yesterbox" gives you a finite number of messages to work through from yesterday, and once you're done, you're done. There's no need to feel guilty, no need to feel like you're procrastinating, and no need to obsessively check today's messages. They can all be dealt with tomorrow.

Hseih estimates that it takes him three hours to plow through a day's messages, and he puts that time on his calendar in the morning to handle the previous day's correspondence. That's the world of a busy and successful CEO – you might well have a different time chunk that you'd need to commit to, probably a lot less.

Emptying the inbox is a Sisyphean task. Yesterbox tries to make it a finite problem to handle. As a bonus, every conversation becomes a slow conversation, and there's a lot of routine unimportant detail in everyone's inbox that can be ignored once a day has gone past.

(Filed under "Productivity", "Lifehacks". See also "Meaningless indicators of progress". I wonder how long it would take to process a day's worth of Twitter sent to you on one-day delay. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to empty his email inbox each day, only to find it full the next day.  See Doug Mann, The Electronic Myth of Sisyphus, 2006.)

 

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Yesterbox: answer yesterday's email, today
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How Tony Hsieh Gets to Inbox Zero
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