Struggling to Achieve Inbox Zero? Make It Into a Game!


For many of us, “inbox zero” is the unattainable holy grail of email organization and productivity. While getting to inbox zero through a period of concerted effort just takes a little time and feels quite rewarding, maintaining that empty inbox — by religiously dealing with emails as you read them, and archiving/responding/filing as necessary — is difficult, especially as new emails keep popping up and “real work” keeps getting in the way.

So how about turning the process of maintaining inbox zero into a game? That’s the idea behind 0Boxer, a new extension for Gmail (s goog) that awards points for doing inbox zero-related activities like archiving email and replying, and you can see how your points tally compares against your friends in an online leaderboard. Sounds good, but unfortunately the beta site appears to be broken currently; when I tried to sign in using my Google account, it reports, “Something went wrong. Please try again.” That’s a shame, because the idea is promising; I’ve reached inbox zero many times, and basked in the warm glow of a job well done, only for my grip on that that empty inbox to slip within days, mainly because maintaining inbox zero has little reward for me.

Although 0boxer isn’t working right now it has inspired me to embark on a new inbox zero mission. I’m going to try making it into something of a game by keeping a running tally of how many items I have in my inbox at the end of each day; if my daily average is less than five emails (not quite inbox zero, I know, but better than the couple of hundred or so that are currently in my inbox!) at the end of each week, I’m going to reward myself with a treat.

0Boxer isn’t the only app that tries to make otherwise dull tasks fun by adding a competitive aspect to them. For example, there’s EpicWin, an RPG-like game which turns the act of checking off items on your to-do list into “experience points” that can be converted into virtual items. There’s also Chore Wars, which turns the act of doing household chores into points.

Have you tried to make an otherwise dull task more rewarding by turning it into a game?

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Michael Fever

All my inboxes are inbox (0) already. I make a point of dealing with each and every email and not ignoring anybody. How many times have you sent an email off asking a question of somebody to never receive a reply. Defeats the whole purpose of the system if that happens. Those automated link exchange requests are the worst, they request a link exchange from you yet they do not answer any emails you send to them.

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