The Digital Workspace Manifesto: It's Not Just About Inbox Zero

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By Dvir Ben Aroya, September 29, 2021
Inbox_zero

It’s quite startling when you think about how ‘work’ has evolved since the new century began. Even ‘knowledge workers’ from 1999 wouldn’t recognize the work we do in 2021. Let’s recap how a typical day of an office worker might look in 1999. You’d come into the office, grab a cup of coffee, say hello to coworkers, and then head to your office/cubicle to begin your day. You’d start your day by turning on your computer, logging into Windows, and then opening Outlook to check your email. An overflowing inbox in 1999 would be five unread emails than 50 today. You’d then head to meetings, meet with clients, and possibly check in on your email at the end of the day. You weren’t concerned about Inbox Zero whatsoever. Instead, you were concerned about the people you worked with over the waiting messages. The world in 2021 feels and responds much differently.

 

 

Inbox Zero: A Path to Unhappiness

Today, you wake up to fifty unread emails, multiple tags on a tool like Slack, alerts from your project management solution, and countless group text messages, all from a device that you are expected to carry at all times. You’re stressed and overworked by the time your feet hit the floors. The coffee prepares you for the onslaught of the day, but the alerts never end.

 

Meetings are a stressor, not because of their contents, but because you worry about what’s waiting for you on the other end. You find it difficult to slow down to do your actual job because you spend so much time and mental energy reacting to others’ needs. Because connectivity is available everywhere, you can find nowhere to escape the digital world’s demands to enjoy the physical world. It’s time to reframe and refocus on how work is done. Work is what we create and contribute to society. Work is not outgoing messages, group chats, and constant vibrations in your pocket. To survive the next twenty years, we’re all going to have to change how we view work.

 

For years, it’s been the ultimate goal to achieve inbox zero—treating every email, message, and alert like an item on your to-do list, hoping that by the end of the day, there won’t be any more to read or take action on. But it’s time to turn this concept upside down. Inbox zero is a productivity trap, and it’s time you get comfortable with (and maybe even fall back in love) your work.

 

 

Why Spike Doesn’t Focus on Inbox Zero

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Let’s be honest; how often have you had zero emails in your inbox for any length of time? Probably less than a handful. Email is still the most popular form of communication, so there’s no doubt you receive many emails every day. On top of email, companies keep adding more tools that “fix communications,” like Slack and Teams. Still, all they do is create a strong expectation always to be available.

 

The focus of Spike is people. Can your Spike inbox be empty? Absolutely, but Instead of thinking of emails as more tasks on your to-do list, think of it as the place where the collaboration happens. At Spike, we view emails as powerful conversations with the important people in your life and at work. Our goal is to save you time and energy when it comes to your email inbox, so you no longer think of this necessary way to get your job done with disdain and resentment. Instead, we want to let you get more of your work completed in less time with less energy, so you can put away the devices and enjoy the world around you.

 

 

Time and Energy vs. Inbox Zero

One of the concepts often not covered by productivity experts is that time is not a renewable resource, but energy is one. What do we mean by this? If you have a project brief to create and it takes you four hours, those are hours you’ll never get back. On the other hand, if you can make the brief when you are more alert and have more energy, you might do it half the time. By having more available energy, you’ll create more time in your life for the things you care about most. This reality is why we built the Snooze function into Spike for emails, tasks, and todos. If you have important messages and tasks, but you have some personal things to deal with, why leave those in your Inbox? Snooze them until a time when you have more energy to give to those tasks.

 

 

Setting Priorities: People First, Alerts Second

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One of Spike’s Superpowers is the Priority Inbox because it helps you prioritize your essential work over the onslaught of alerts we all receive every day. There’s an old saying that you’ll be much healthier if you stay in the supermarkets outside aisles. Opening your email is like walking into a supermarket. Countless things can get your attention, and there’s typically no way to eliminate them.

 

The typical Inbox is not set up to help eliminate potential distractions (newsletters, webinar invitations, sales pitches, etc.) from the crucial things (client messages, project revisions, etc.). Priority Inbox makes this a reality. Going back to our supermarket analogy: Priority Inbox hides the junk food from the shelves and only shows you the healthy options. Of course, you have granular control over each sender, so you can easily bring your favorite shopping newsletter into your Priority Inbox.  At Spike, we value communications with people over everything else, so we’re refocusing email to be about the most important things.

 

 

Knowing What to Work On

One of the fundamental principles of ‘Getting Things Done’ by David Allen is knowing what you need to work on in the appropriate context. Spike’s ‘Feed’ is built upon this principle. Spike’s Feed contains your important messages (using Priority Inbox), your latest Collaborative Notes, and your task list. Can you use the Inbox Zero method (where your Inbox is empty) with Spike’s Feed? Absolutely, just archive, snooze it, tag it, delete it. But you don’t need to. Spike’s Feed is about keeping you informed about what needs your attention vs. what’s demanding your attention. Do you have a Spike Group that’s working on a project you aren’t involved with at the moment? Snooze it until next week. Do you have a project you need to work on but can’t until a vendor fixes a bug? Star it, and then archive it. Do you have an email that will require a lot of research before you can answer it? Let the person know, and then turn it into a task that you can work on when you have time.

 

One of the vital things that knowledge workers will have to do going forward is to organize their work for maximum efficiency. Demands have never been greater, and we’ve never had more distractions than we have now. Spike’s Feed eliminates the need to switch from an email application to your task manager. When a task needs to be created, add it to your Inbox and snooze it until the appropriate time. When you need to chat with your team about a project, it all happens in a Spike Group. There’s no need to subscribe to an additional and expensive Team Chat application. When you need to collaborate on documents, you can work in real-time with Spike Notes.

 

 

The Verdict: Should You Use Inbox Zero?

The real question that you should be asking is, what is inbox zero to you? Inbox Zero might be that your work Gmail account is empty, or you have 0 notifications, but you have your most important group chats pinned at the top. Inbox Zero might be that you’ve snoozed your task list while you’re at a conference, but keep your chat thread with your boss on a quick pin. Spike isn’t just about emptying your inboxes (but you can work that way if you choose). Instead, Spike is about streamlining workflows so you can be mentally free to produce your best work while giving you the breathing room to do deep work. We have multiple ways to organize your Inbox, and they all transform legacy email into a speedy chat experience.

 

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Inbox

This mode is the ‘traditional way of organizing your Inbox. So if you want to see an empty Inbox when everything is finished and you’ve archived all your emails, this mode is perfect for you.

 

Subject

If you want to see recent activity organized by subjects of chats/emails, this mode will keep everything separate.

 

People

People mode will let you collapse threads into a single streamlined conversation with each person. This mode is perfect for you if you always want to see recent conversations in your inbox.

 

Spike helps you and your team stay connected. By relying on Spike’s Feed, you can manage your team, your clients, and your work all from the centrality of your Email Inbox. Try Spike for free to learn more about reclaiming your inbox.

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Dvir Ben Aroya Dvir is the CEO and co-founder of Spike. With two decades of experience in the technology industry, he is focused on how technology intersects with the way we work. His passion for productivity fuels his mission to make Spike the collaboration tool of the future by bringing a human touch to digital communication.