What distinguishes email from other digital communications is that it has become a world-writable to-do list. A world-writable to-do list is an abomination that steals our time, our attention, our autonomy, and our souls. It stops us from doing productive work.
We should resist email, and prefer most other form of communications.
It’s tempting for me to say: well, only if you let it. I don’t resist email. I embrace it. It doesn’t stop me from doing productive work.
But I take the point. Everyone is in different positions. Perhaps you start a new job, they hand you a new email address, and a stream of emails starts flowing into it. Some actionable, some not, a new firehose of information for you to manage. If that’s the case, I agree with Palmer. Your productive agency has been compromised.
Palmer fights email essentially through bifurcation:
My main inbox is new to-dos that people have sent me. The 2nd section of my inbox is any email I’ve ‘starred’. I read my inbox from the bottom (oldest) up, either resolving them immediately or starring and archiving them if they can’t be resolved quickly. I then work my way up to the top, achieving 💖 Inbox Zero 💖. I do this about twice a day.
When burning down the inbox, I do not hesitate — I don’t put off burning down that thing whose subject line makes me anxious. There are only 2 possible outcomes, neither of which is too scary: either I’ll resolve it right then and there, or it goes into the starred list to be worried about later.
Sounds like a decent system to me. I like any system that people find productive for themselves.