Making 200K emails a little less stressful (and Gmail a little more useful)

Sometimes I wonder why I keep so many unread emails. All the best coaches say Inbox Zero is the way to a less stressful life, and I understand where they’re coming from. But I can’t bring myself to just delete all of it.

And now and then, I stumble across a little informational gem that makes me glad I go my own way on that topic. I was looking for any evidence that I had ever signed up for an Airtable account, and though I had not, I did find mentions of Airtable in some newsletters I hadn’t read. One of those newsletters was from Zappier, and an unrelated post linked from that email reviewed how to reclaim the space at the bottom of my Gmail sidebar which has recently been taken over by reminders for Google Meet and Google Chat.

That little annoyance has been like a splinter in my mind for weeks, but I hadn’t had the time to focus on it long enough to formulate a question to google. And here’s Justin Pot, with the answer to my unverbalized prayer to get my entire sidebar back and relieve the stress of not being able to tell at a glance when my most important email accounts have unread messages I need to see from specific people (on specific topics).

Well, you say, wouldn’t Inbox Zero relieve that stress anyway? Not really. I use email as a documentation repository, and I worked with Enron back in the day, when documentation was life itself when things went awry. I still run into situations where I’ve notified someone of an issue they needed to address, and they didn’t, only to have them come back at me sometime later in a tizzy about the problems that resulted from their own inattention. Nobody likes to hear (see) it, but if I told you a month ago there was an iceberg in your way, and now you want to yell at me because you didn’t pay attention and your ship is sinking, I’m going to send the receipts saying that I told you. I’ll help you patch the hole, but you’re gonna have to live with the knowledge that you could have saved yourself time (and probably money) if you’d paid attention earlier.

So Inbox Zero is probably never going to be a thing for me. Just because it’s not important today, that doesn’t mean it will never be important. And sometimes I don’t know what I need until I need it, and when I find it, it’s like having my own guardian angel drape a little blanket of calm over my shoulders.


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