Product Manager’s Dream Inbox


Dear Readers,

When I opened my office Outlook this morning, the 3rd email from top grabbed my attention. It came from a fellow Product Manager who requested the IT Admin to remove him from a certain Distribution List (DL). The last line really made me think. It went like this (names have been masked for obvious reasons):

 Note: – I am receiving 6K+ mails in a day from different environments since my email is in this DL. This is causing distraction and I am not able to concentrate!”

I laughed my heart out but yes, more often than not – this is how our life is!

We get trained (over time on the job) and paid to process tons of information and most often it feels like searching for clues in a labyrinth and making the most educated guesses. The life of a Product Manager is all about distilling the ‘right’ information from myriad sources. It’s all about saying “Yes” and “No” emphatically (mostly the latter). Sometimes we hit jackpot while at other times we get a raw deal. Over time, I have learned that ‘no-decision’ or ‘slow-decision’ is like poison; it will surely kill the product’s longevity. So it’s better to make a decision today, fail fast and move on. As long as I figure out why the decision was a wrong one, I need not announce it to the world. But yes, I would have my confidence intact and that should be good enough to help me make a better decision for my product in future. Making my product live long with glory is my purpose!

So how do I stay on top of my Inbox?

The Goal I set for myself everyday: “The clutter free inbox – Less is more.”

(yes, I know no two days are the same!)

How do I get to my dream Inbox?

Everyone has their own ways of doing things. This is what I have been doing for last 3 years which has helped me by a great extent to become more productive:

Rule 1Inbox (quick scan of ~ 5-10 seconds/email, max of 10-15 minutes per day to go through Inbox) > Delete (delete irrelevant emails) > Archive (archive the entire Inbox at the end of day).

Rule 2: Don’t spend more than 10-15 minutes/day to bring the unread email count in your Inbox to 0, regardless of whether it’s 5k+ or 500 at 8 am or whenever you start your day.

Yes, I know this might shock many, but this is the best way I found to stay focused. It doesn’t mean I am careless. I have been doing this for the past 3 years, and trust me, neither am I inefficient, nor have I missed any deadlines. In fact, I managed to get few awards instead [no not for deleting emails ;)].

I realized over the years that we often waste our time going after the wrong information; added to that we further waste time questing the source. And all this while, the truth hides somewhere else. In the process we fail to take a decision today and as a result, our most beloved product suffers.

I am sure that soon technology will solve the problem of stopping/eliminating unwanted information/emails reaching us every morning when we open our business email. In fact, one of my colleagues is working on a patentable idea that would solve this problem!

If you have an unique recipe for attaining Zero Inbox in < 10 minutes, please don’t forget to comment below with your tips and tricks.

I will end my thoughts today with these quotes:


Yours Truly,

A Product Manager

~ Build the best version of your product ~


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