Until recently, the worst email inbox I've ever seen was a client that has 7,000 emails in his inbox. A few months ago, a customer shared that he had over 17,000 emails in his inbox. Ouch!  He went on to tell me that he went to a GTD seminar and felt convicted to go back and process his inbox to zero. He said it took over a month but that he had gotten to zero and planned to stay there.

ManDrowingInBox115.jpgIt's been over a month since I last did a full weekly review. I took a 6 weeks off of work to complete my Master's degree in Information and Knowledge Management and then two additional weeks to spend some time with my family.

During this time, I blogged only occasionally and I intentionally ignored most emails, doing only an occasional emergency scan of my inbox in order to delegate time-critical items to my team.

20090901-EricMackFullInbox4023Emails.jpgToday, I returned to the office to an overflowing inbox - over 4,000 emails and a small stack of paper to process.

Ouch!


At least it's all in one place, ready for me to process.

The good thing is that I know how to process my inbox quickly and I have excellent tools to do it. I guess it's time for me to start eating my own dog food again.

I wonder how long it will take before my friend Luis finds this blog entry in his RSS feed and try to get me to declare email bankruptcy or give up email altogether? (Sorry, Luis, it  ain't gonna happen. When used properly, e-mail is far too valuable and powerful as a communication tool to get rid of. And, I like to have everything in one place, ready to process.)

I think I now qualify to be the new eProductivity poster-child. Since I have a number of meetings coming up I can't take too much time off to process this all at once. I plan to set aside an extra hour or so each day to process my inbox to empty.

What's the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Discussion/Comments (15):

What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

More than 50 000 mails in the Inbox and it's not a team mailbox, it's a user's mailbox.

I've ran a script on 625 users's mail file(approx 15% of all mail dbs). One third of them had more than 1000 mails in their mailbox.

Also, it's a lot of efforts to clean up the Inbox, but it also very tough on your servers

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JYR

Posted at 9/1/2009 7:43:16 PM by JYR


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

My boss's Inbox in Notes is the worst I have ever seen. I think it was something like 115,000 emails. 6 GB worth. Enough that Domino would no longer deliver emails to his mailbox due to exceeding maximum folder size. Emails going back several years and probably 90% of them are auto-generated emails from monitoring tools for firewalls, routers, etc.

Posted at 9/1/2009 7:47:59 PM by Scott P


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Had a client with 64k messages in the Inbox, four folders with three messages in each. He was the poster-child for our Inbox Reduction project for that client.

Posted at 9/1/2009 10:16:18 PM by Bill Malchisky


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Eric, I'd be interested in what you and David think about "not working in the inbox", and using things like microblogging and activity streams to communicate, share, and discover information and people. I blogged about activity streams today, and would be interested in your feedback.

Posted at 9/1/2009 10:25:56 PM by Alan Lepofsky


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

@Alan If you use microblogging and activity streams instead of e-mail you are just creating alternative inboxes, and still "working in the inbox".

Posted at 9/1/2009 10:29:45 PM by Jeroen Sangers


re: What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Alan, I don't think SocialText or Lotus would care for what David or I think about that topic. Jeroen summed it up well. 4,000 emails to process in one place with the right tools doesn't scare me. I know where to look and I can trust that i have captured everything in one place. 500 social message fragments spread across a variety of services and locations frigtens me. What if I forget to check someplace? Can I trust that I'm seeing everything? Out of sight, out of mind.


Please know that I did not always hold this view. In fact, in the early days of mail-in databases David and I had many passionate discussions about the merits using (or not using) multiple mailboxes with agents to direct email to the right place. Happy to discuss off-line of you like. - Eric

Posted at 9/1/2009 10:37:23 PM by Eric Mack


re: What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Bill, Scott, thanks for sharing. that's a lot of messages. I wonder what their GSA (Gnawing sense of anxiety) was like over such a huge inbox of incomplete and undefined stuff. At some point, I'm sure they go numb.

Posted at 9/1/2009 10:41:59 PM by Eric Mack


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Eric, did you read the blog post I mentioned? "500 social message fragments spread across a variety of services and locations frigtens me. What if I forget to check someplace? Can I trust that I'm seeing everything?" is 100% the opposite of what we're doing with activity streams. Activity streams are designed to allow you to know everything that is going on, in one place, and filter the content to meet your needs. By creating and sharing information in wiki, what if you could cut down that email by 4, 40, 400, or even 2000 messages? Sounds like we really need to talk about this.

Posted at 9/2/2009 6:19:23 AM by Alan Lepofsky


re: What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Alan, I missed the link. I'll read it. Indeed, Alan, We should talk. I'm very interested in the concept of aggregation of disparate sources into a single presentation for the user. - Eric

Posted at 9/2/2009 8:52:28 AM by Eric Mack


re: What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Alan, please post of send me the link of the article to which you refer.

Posted at 9/2/2009 8:55:10 AM by Eric Mack


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Hmmm, that is so odd, I really thought I included the link! Sorry about that. Here you go: { Link }

Posted at 9/2/2009 10:32:11 AM by Alan Lepofsky


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Well you already covered my personal worst in you intro <gr> but I also had a client that had over 76,000 emails in their inobx and the mail file was almost 7 gb. There were no problems with this until they migrated to Exchange <boo> and he was upset that they couldn't transfer all of his old emails to Outlook.

TTYL,

Neil

Posted at 9/2/2009 1:36:21 PM by Neil Agate


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

The largest I ever had was 62 GB and 150K+ in the Inbox. As much as I would like to fault the user I would have to say it's management's fault. They stopped mail purging but never told the users. This user figured it was purging all along...

Posted at 9/2/2009 2:04:09 PM by Jim Casale


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

Hiya Eric! I got the link to your blog a few hours ago, but plenty of things happening in between, so responding to it now. When I used to do customer support for PCs, VM and Lotus Notes 4.1 I once had a customer who had over 17,000 emails and was wondering why he could no longer respond to emails... Yuk!

Interesting article you have put together over here and really good and helpful commentary, although I am surprised by Jeroen's comments, because it's definitely not another inbox! Quite the opposite! If you have worked through the model I am doing where I trust the network, I contribute to the network, I help nurture personal business relationships using technology in pretty similar ways to what Alan mentions, I no longer have an inbox, I am afraid.

I just come to work, go to where my networks are and ask the key question: Hey, what happened since last time I was here? Typically, the answer would be, oh, not much, not to worry, nothing for you to work on, all handled all right. Perhaps you could check this or that other thing, but that's it. And right there, through that collaborative filtering that Clay Shirky has been advocating for all along tells me I don't have an inbox of 4.000 items. But just a work to get done. Moving along with the flow from my network(s) and give into it right away.

It's a different model of working, Eric; one where I *always* know I won't have thousands of messages for me waiting, when I know that most of them have already been handled for me; I just let my network help me filter where I need to go and move on. Priceless! And there you have me... moving along with a clean inbox and right away getting involved with current tasks my networks are working on ... Not bad, eh? ;-)

Posted at 9/2/2009 5:16:00 PM by Luis Suarez


What’s the worst email inbox you have ever seen?

We had a case where someone had a reasonably tidy inbox but 1000+ folders !

Posted at 9/8/2009 1:29:34 AM by Mike Rankin



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