inbox-zeroDo you manage your email inbox similar to your kitchen sink or your bookshelf? The answer will not only disable or enable your ability to practice Inbox Zero — the habit to regularly process your inbox to empty. It’ll also put you in either cognitive exhausted or cognitive alert mode.

You bought a new book and read it. Now you want to put it in your bookshelf, which unfortunately happens to be full. You skim the spines and almost randomly remove one book to give room for your new book. Bookshelf is left unsorted. Do you recognize this? Probably.

Your kitchen sink is full of a combination of leftovers and plastic packaging materials. You throw a glance and rather randomly decide to remove the cucumber parts and leave everything else in the same mess as you found it. Do you recognize this? Absolutely not.

Understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting are the five functions that make up the majority of our conscious thoughts. They are intensive glucose and oxygen consumers. Overuse makes us feel exhausted. Managing the inbox as a bookshelf relies on all five.

Kitchen sink cleaning is not completed until everything is removed. Every single email must be deleted, archived or put in a to-do folder. Inbox zero is not a continuous state. Analogous to the kitchen sink cleaning, we ought to do it 2-3 times a day.