Manage your email with “Inbox negative one,” the new even-more-proactive solution to wrangling lots of messages. An incredible productivity tip for the truly competent manager.


People frequently feel overwhelmed by a large quantity of emails that they feel obligated to respond to. As these messages pile up, the recipient tends to become increasingly stressed.

One email-management philosophy for mitigating this problem is known as “Inbox Zero”: it’s basically a system that suggests periodically wrangling emails in a systematic fashion. (It is not, contrary to what it sounds like from the name, just another term for having zero unread emails.)


But perhaps we can do better than “Inbox Zero”—instead of just handling all existing emails, what if we also got ahead of the email game by speculatively drafting replies to possible future emails?

This is the philosophy of “Inbox Negative One.” A user must simply do the following:

  • Somehow, handle all of their existing unread emails. Just deleting them all (“email bankruptcy”) is allowed in this harsh philosophy.
  • Next, speculatively draft some new email replies to various topics (real or imagined).
  • When the user gets an email that they need to spend more than a few minutes replying to, instead, they just immediately send one of these pre-drafted emails on a random irrelevant topic (Figures 1 & 2).
Fig. 1: Top left: the “email” icon shows 146 unread emails in a harsh retina-searing crimson. Bottom left: the soothing neutral tone of the “0” brings tranquility to the user who has no unread messages. Yet we can improve this further (right): the negative one indicates that the user has pre-loaded one email into their stockpile of pre-written emails.

The pre-drafted emails in question need not be relevant to the topic at hand: the only important thing is that they contain a delightful “personal touch”: perhaps they could contain a poem, or a piece of abstract art (Figure 2), or musings on the Hundred Years’ War.

Fig. 2: This pre-drafted email contains a soulful piece of non-representational art. If a user gets an email like “last notice: car will be towed tomorrow!!!” , they can send this email in response, rather than stressing out about writing an email reply to such a concern-inducing topic.


This is probably the future of email. You should request that your favorite email provider add this “pre-loading email” functionality to their service (or perhaps you could write a plugin to handle it yourself).

PROS: Reduces stress among everyone who has to deal with email, which is almost everyone these days.

CONS: Manufacturers of anxiety-treatment medication might try to suppress this system, since it would bring tranquility to many of their stressed customers. Don’t let Big Pharma bury this incredible email technique! Note: if you work for Big Pharma and would like to buy the rights to this idea, please contact me.