‘Inbox Zero’ is a terrible mirage.

We all dream of it. A beautiful, completely empty inbox. Nobody waiting for you to respond. Nobody nagging you for your attention. Just you and your beautiful empty inbox, in total homeostasis with the world.

If you’ve ever aimed for Inbox Zero and achieved it, you know that it feels great.

For a moment.

Then another email appears in your inbox. Then another. A wave of anxiety returns, and you are faced with two horribly unpleasant options:

1. Chain yourself to your inbox, zapping every email that appears, until the day you die.

2. Let the inbox build itself up once again, your victory all too fleeting.

I think it’s safe to assume that nobody considers the first option practical. Anyone who does might already have some semi-serious psychological conditions. If they don’t, they will soon.

Your inbox, like your life, is in a constant state of flux. New things are always happening that disturb the balance and tax your attention. Attempting to fight that fact will lead you to nothing but frustration. And a still nonempty inbox.

Pursuing Inbox Zero without the proper perspective is a subscription for pain and disappointment. When you’re trying to get a handle on your correspondence, first frame your expectations as follows:

Email is something not to be conquered, but managed.

Over time, I will be exploring inbox management techniques in a way that accounts for the neverending nature of incoming email. That may include structured exercises focused on achieving some form of ‘Inbox Zero,’ but I believe part of the issue is in rethinking how we define the word ‘Inbox’ in the first place.


Magneto has infiltrated the White House with a diabolical plot to replace the President with a doppelganger. Sentinels are everywhere, and the X-Men are once again faced with the daunting task of saving the world.

Cyclops, the unwavering leader, begins to carefully orchestrate a plan. He researches; he delegates; he orchestrates; he obtains floor plans. He prepares.

Wolverine, brash and impulsive, is at no time entirely certain he’s even on this team. At the first possible opportunity, he throws the plan out the window in favor of an improvised scheme that just feels right; civilian casualties be damned.

There may be costly setbacks in both cases, but ultimately each hero tends to succeed in saving the world, or at least surviving long enough to face their archnemesis once again.

When tackling big challenges in our lives, we may periodically find ourselves in an X-Men Moment. When you’re up against something important, what kind of hero will you be?

Like Cyclops, with a level head, an eye toward leadership, and mature well-researched reasoning?

Like Wolverine, diving head first into the fray, not knowing exactly how things will work out but being ready to adapt quickly to whatever comes your way?

Or like Jubilee, who rarely does anything of much consequence?

If you find yourself being too much of one or the other, you might want to switch it up, or team up with someone who is your opposite to form your own superhero team.