The best advice on productivity in today's age of information overload - trying to empty ur inbox is a waste of timehttps://t.co/QNVXL2CyBy— Nikhil Kulkarni (@kulkarninikhil) October 21, 2016
Organizing the Inbox and emptying it are two different issues. Those who don't use Inbox as a todo list might have other ways of managing to-do. The article above is meant for those who rather than organize emails and prioritize them according to their importance, choose to use the 'arrival time' of an email as a default prioritization order. Those for whom acting on each mail means reading or replying it or deleting i.e. ignoring it. And also accompanied by the syndrome that an email replied and deleted (or archived) is 'ball out of my court' and I need not visit it again until there is a response from the other side.
This strategy of email management is appropriate for someone doing a back-office customer service job where each email acts like a ticket which you need to close. [Such professions are incidentally those which are getting replaced by AI or analytics based bots or programs]. However, in most professions today email is a means of a. collaboration b. information for personal welfare & growth [ex. newsletters] c. intimation of process statuses. Apart from 'c', none of the other two can afford to be consumed on a 'act as it comes' basis because both collaborative work and personal development need thought and focussed attention. And attention should be scheduled when the mind is in a state to do it than done impromptu.
However, there are troves of articles online junking email as an appropriate medium to get these two jobs done. There has been concerted effort to move away from email for both collaboration and personal development. Newsletters have moved to blogs and interactive portals - some are even attempting to convert them into MooC like interfaces. Collaboration itself is evolving with Office Online and Google Docs competing for features and several other special purpose collaboration platforms like Jira and Slack emerging (Slack even offers ways to intimate).
But in spite of this, email continues to serve as an all purpose channel for collaboration and personal development and I guess, like the cockroach, it will survive the current wave of change and stay relevant even decades later as a general purpose communication or messaging platform. So what options do you have as a user - do you continue to live with schedule as they come strategy on email?
Until GMail and filters arrived on the scene - 12 years ago - you had no choice, but it is no longer so. With GMail, we can sort our mail automatically for 75-80% mails properly in folders for later reading and clearing when we have time. This way the time spent in sorting mails, which is what most people do while 'emptying' their inbox, will be saved. I have a very real benchmark of this from my KPMG days. My official mailbox on Outlook which did not have this feature usually took 4 hours per week to keep organized, and yet many times I couldn't find mails when needed because I had made mistakes in sorting them manually.
Using a combination of a well defined labels hierarchy and filters which automatically move mails to these labels, most collaboration and personal development emails can be automatically sorted into proper labels to be attended to at a pre-scheduled time than actioned as they arrive. You are only left with a. intimation mails b. mails from new sources for which filtering has not been set up.