The big email mistake you’re making
THERE are two types of people in the world: those with 77,034 unread emails, and those with none.
The first type of person seems perfectly able to free their minds of the guilt associated with accumulating unopened mail, preferring instead to watch the count tick over, like a high score in a video game.
The second type of person takes time to sift through their inbox on a daily basis, whittling down their minuscule email count, but constantly filled with dread that a sick day or a weekend will cause their count to reach double digits.
I'm in the latter camp, enjoying a meticulously organised digital letterbox, responding to each email accordingly, and logging them into folders.
You can therefore imagine my horror when, after just ten days off for Christmas, I returned to a whopping 3700 emails.
The enormity of the task ahead slapped me in the eyeballs and the wave of anxiety was crippling.
As I frantically attempted to sort through the mass of emails, in a blind panic that I might miss some humungous cheque bequeathed to me, I realised that I was staring at a collection of useless newsletters, promotions and notifications.
An investigation into this very real digital struggle, by The Atlantic this week, found there's a pretty solid argument in favour of ignoring the size of your swelling email inbox and, well, living your life out in the real world.
Rather than striving for the elusive "Inbox Zero", experts are now suggesting people embrace the opposite approach and aim to reach "Inbox Infinity".
"Adopting inbox infinity means accepting the fact that there will be an endless, growing amount of email in your inbox every day, most of which you will never address or even see," the article said.
"It's about letting email messages wash over you, responding to the ones you can, but ignoring most."
My current inbox has now shrunk to 2565, so admittedly, I haven't made great strides at all.
But what I have realised in the process is that the amount of pointless crud I receive every day just serves to compound the pressure I put on myself to clean it up.
Agonising over an arbitrary number on the left hand side of a computer screen will only ever make you unhappy.
And by the way, the number of emails we receive isn't showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.
Don't believe me? Here's some science to back it up.
A report by research firm The Radicati Group found that in 2018 alone, the world's population sent more than 281 billion emails on a daily basis.
That number is predicted to rise to more than 333 billion by the year 2021.
The report also estimated the number of email users will reach more than 2.9 billion by the end of this year.
"Over one-third of the worldwide population will be using email by the end of 2019," the report said.
So what do you do when you've got thousands of unopened emails sitting in your inbox, and the thought of sorting through them all gives you an instant migraine?
People are now being encouraged to stop focusing on the rising number of unread emails they accumulate, as most of them are social media notifications or retail offers that will only continue to roll in the next day.
The overall message for 2019 seems to be that attempting to keep your digital letterbox at a consistent zero is a fool's errand.
Except if you're this chick, or a Virgo.
INBOX ZERO VS. INBOX INFINITY
Reaching the elusive productivity benchmark dubbed Inbox Zero is pretty self-explanatory.
Basically, it's a state of pure bliss when your bloated inbox is reduced to a perfect arrangement of labelled, triaged and organised messages.
Nirvana, if you will.
But, like all good things in life, getting to Inbox Zero is an uphill battle and the high rarely lasts.
It's something only the most neurotic of us can achieve and maintain on a consistent basis.
Web developers have made a killing, persuading Inbox Zero enthusiasts to purchase software designed to sort through their emails and archive them appropriately.
There are smartphone apps all over the internet, one is even called Inbox Zero, that promise to help clean up your inbox for good.
Some people even go as far as creating schedules or "reading sessions" to conquer their overloaded mailboxes according to a system of alarms.
But other email users seem to be taking a more realistic approach by admitting they simply can't control the insane amount of digital garbage being thrown at them each day.
As such, these Inbox Infinity devotees prefer to let go of their anxiety and stress and embrace the chaos that is a completely overflowing inbox.
But, like anyone struggling with a problem, the first step is to admit you have one.
The second step is to avoid reading every single message that pops up on your screen.
In a public forum discussing the pros and cons of inbox infinity, one user said they already practice it quite successfully, as their emails pop up in their phone notifications.
"If I don't need to do anything with it, I swipe away the notification, which does not open or delete the email," they said.
"If I do need to respond, I usually do so pretty quickly. So I have an enormous amount of unread emails in my inbox. But they don't cause any issues, and I don't tend to have anxiety about them."
Instead, try activating Google's "Priority Inbox", which sorts through important messages, alerting you to the emails you should read and the ones you should dump in the trash.
And unsubscribe from those newsletters, product reviews and book clubs you signed up to years ago.
Real talk: You didn't use that electronic back scratcher, you never touched those books and you don't need the extra noise.