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Inbox Zero or 10,000 Unread Messages – which one are you?

Caitlin Hall


Envelope mail with a notification symbol above it

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Personally, I can’t stand having unread emails in my inbox. That little red notification bubble is the bane of my existence. I can’t help but berate my friends and family if I see their inboxes littered with thousands of ignored messages. I don’t know how they get through life like that—it really drives me insane!


I go out of my way to unsubscribe from email lists, to avoid getting nuisance spam in the first place. I’m wary when signing up to things that I might become laden with a mass of junk mail. I have two primary email addresses—one for all the important stuff, and one that I use for online shopping or signing up to competitions, with the knowledge that brands will send out newsletters five times a day in an attempt to entice me to buy their products. Despite that, I’m still incredibly anal about my secondary email inbox, and I make sure it’s almost as tidy and spotless as the first. If I ever have a bit of extra time, I’ll sort through my emails and put them into folders. Altogether, I have just over a thousand read, sorted, and organised emails on my primary email account, which I’ve used since 2009.


I know that I’m in the minority. As much as a cluttered inbox infuriates me, I would never expect the average person to go to the lengths I do to organise their digital files. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m a glaringly obvious Type A, and it would probably do me some good to chill out a bit. As much as it would send my brain into a frenzy, I admire the nonchalance of people who can let their inbox fill up. They somehow seem to be able to find all the information they need, without any issue.


If you’ve never heard of the distinction before, Type A and Type B are two ways to categorise someone’s personality, such as their emotions, behaviours, and the way they work best. There are more in-depth personality types, of course, which can give you even more insight into your personal strengths and weaknesses, and how you can use both of these to your advantage—such as the Myers & Briggs 16 Personality Types, or the Nine Enneagram Type. In comparison, classifying yourself as either Type A or Type B is simple and reductive. For the purposes of this article, Type A and Type B comfortably represent the mindset of ‘inbox zero’ against 10,000 unread messages.


The two personality types are differentiated using factors such as stress, motivation, and patience. For example, a Type A personality might be described as a ‘workaholic’, i.e. a hard worker who focuses on what they want to achieve. Type As are more likely to multitask, with a tendency to be impatient. Because of this, they’re more likely to feel frustrated, and stress is a big concern for them.


In comparison, Type Bs are Type As’ mirror. Type Bs are more easy-going, with a more laid-back approach to work. They’ll take their time when working, unlikely to feel the same urgency as their Type A counterparts. They feel confident in themselves without searching for external validation, and they don’t need a competitive edge to make them feel successful. Type Bs tend to get on better with their peers, due to being more patient and even-tempered.


Reading those descriptors, I’m even more certain that I have a Type A personality. But that’s not necessarily good news. It might mean that I’ll achieve more in my lifetime, given that I’ll feel pushed to work harder and strive for success; however, Type As are nearly twice as likely to develop heart disease as Type Bs, due to the unnecessary stress they put themselves under.


Learning about personality types gives me more of an understanding of how my brain works and why I behave the way I do. It wouldn’t hurt me to loosen up once in a while and take a leaf out of Type Bs’ handbook. After all, coming back to my dilemma, what really is the harm in having a few unread emails (read: not 10,000), if it means that I’ll be more laid back and less wound up over minor details?!


It might seem like a personal preference, but it’s clear that even small things, like the number of unread emails in someone’s inbox, illustrates something much bigger—such as the way our brains function, and how our behaviours and actions reflect our personalities. Both types have equal amount of strengths and weaknesses, and life would be boring if we were all the same, don’t you think?

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