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Should You Ignore Your Emails or Get Them to Zero?

Two entrepreneurs from different schools of thought explain the reasoning behind their email-management methods.

This story appears in the July 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Let your emails pile up, or fight to achieve inbox zero? Two entrepreneurs from different schools of thought explain the reasoning behind their email-management methods. 

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Related: 4 Tips to Better Manage Your Email Inbox

Inbox Infinity

“The day I realized my email was not my to-do list but just other people’s to-do list for me, I had this incredible realization: Constantly managing an inbox is like doing someone else’s homework! The minute I stopped running my day based on my email, I immediately became more effective. And it’s not about ignoring messages; being responsive is really important, and it’s indicative of your work ethic. Of course, there’s a line between knowing your priorities and being responsive. I start every day with a list of the three to five critical things I need to do and slot them into my calendar. When I feel like I’m on track to achieve them, I’ll check on my email. I delete anything I know is marketing and then look for priority messages that require a decision on a deadline. Anything else, I leave it bold. It’s not that those messages aren’t important, but I can deal with them later, so it’s fine for them to pile up. Not obsessing over my inbox keeps me calm and has helped me prioritize my time and focus on what’s important, rather than constantly playing catch-up.”

-- Rachel Blumenthal, founder and CEO, children’s clothing subscription service Rockets of Awesome  

Related: Forget Inbox Zero: Focus on Reaching Inbox Zen

Inbox Zero

“If that little red dot on my phone’s email icon has anything higher than a number 5 in it, it causes me major stress. And I’m at a point in my life -- and business -- where removing stress is a priority. For a long time, I’d manage my inbox by moving important messages into a starred folder, with plans to deal with them later. But that just trapped them in email purgatory, and knowing they were in there was a constant distraction. So about six months ago, I started doing a nightly inbox purge at 10. It really takes only about 15 minutes now that I’m in a rhythm. (Plus, since so much of our internal communication is done via Slack these days, I don’t have as many company messages floating around.) I delete what I can and respond to what just needs a short answer. Anything that deserves more attention than I can muster at the end of the day, I save for tomorrow -- but that’s never more than a few messages. I sleep better without that stress. And better sleep means a better, more productive tomorrow.”

-- Adam Tishman, co-founder and CEO, mattress company Helix