Achieving Inbox Zero As A Project Management Skill

Could something as minor as managing your email be considered a project management skill?

With the proliferation and inefficiency of email communication these days, I’ve noticed a great deal of discussion and recommendations for tools geared towards helping busy folks “achieve Inbox zero”.

Achieving Inbox ZeroWhat’s interesting is that everyone immediately buys into the root cause problem of too much email, not enough time.  I’m one of those in agreement.  And I dare say I have it easier than most.  I consistently average a couple of hundred emails per day, in terms of how many I receive.  How many do I send?  Far, far less, but likely not as few as I should.  For the most part, I use various social tools to communicate both personally and professionally.  Tools like Yammer, Evernote, and Skype simply save me time and make my life easier.

But back to the world of email.  What strikes me is that having agreed that there’s far too much email flying around the interwebs these days, so many people rush to solve that problem by looking for a technical solution.  What email client do you use?  What about third-party plug-ins?  Do you use auto-responders?  And so on and so forth.  In a nutshell, everyone is looking for the magic ‘easy button’.

So I’m just going to throw this out there – perhaps achieving inbox zero is a goal reached by applying some key skills.  Skills like the ability to prioritize, the ability to organize, the ability to delegate, and, yes, even the ability to say no.  More to the point, if you’re struggling to manage your inbox, are you prepared to manage that $20M project?  Or lead that $200M corporation?

Successful leaders and talented project managers tend to excel in all of those skills mentioned above.  They just need to apply those same skills to the mundane day-to-day task of email management.  And, like everything else in life, those willing to go the extra mile, think outside the box, and innovate in addition to manage, will reap the largest benefit.  Managing your inbox is the short-term band-aid fix;  innovating beyond the inbox, to learn to communicate via more efficient channels, and to educate others to do the same, is where the real reward lies.

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