The Power of Zero

Zero Overview

‘Zero’ is a working style which suggests that keeping a clean, clutter-free, working space helps to focus the mind and increase productivity. This methodology lends itself to both the physical and digital working environment. If you’re mother is anything like mine, you’ve heard the expression, “A clear desk equals a clear mind.” That is exactly the principle I am, begrudgingly, going to elaborate on in this post.

Two versions of Zero I am going to expand upon in this blog are Zero Inbox and Zero Desktop.

Zero Inbox

For most of us, email has quickly overtaken the phone as our primary tool for business communication. We are bombarded everyday with both important and superfluous emails filling our already overwhelmed inboxes. This leaves us to wade through the clutter to find the important messages. Once we have found what is important to us, we then have to successfully order them from most to least important. Without practicing Zero Inbox, after opening our email client each morning, we must find the day’s starting place and begin the process of mentally shuffling today’s tasks into the unfinished of previous days. This can be extremely stressful and is inefficient. The Zero Inbox method of handling emails is, every day, to sort the emails from your inbox into carefully created folders while flagging the emails that need follow attention; this leaves us with an empty (Zero) inbox. Clearing the chaos allows us to concentrate our attention on what is important. Now, with all of that being said, I am not the best practitioner of zero inbox; however, it is the mark to which I aim my efforts.

Zero Desktop

The perfect compliment to a tidy inbox is a Zero Desktop. This one doesn’t need much explanation being that it’s the digital representation of our physical desktop. We all know how to clean our desks.

I believe Benjamin Franklin said it best, “A place for everything and everything in it’s place.”

The same principles apply to both our physical and virtual desktops. I used to be one of the worst perpetrators of a messy desktop; I would use it as a catchall for files that I: a. didn’t know where to place, or b. didn’t want to worry about. Soon, I would start my computer and wouldn’t be able to make out my beautiful daughters face in the background. Once I realized that keeping my tax return folder on my desktop wouldn’t make me work on it any quicker, I decided to clear it all. Don’t get me wrong, I still have a place that I use as a repository for temporary files or files that may not be easily categorized, I just don’t clutter my mind by looking at them all day long. So the proposal for Zero desktop is to create a file for these things to quickly be placed (I use my downloads folder), then schedule a time each week to appropriate these things and delete the unnecessary. In doing this, I free up space on my computer and keep my computer, and mind, nice and clean.

Zero Conclusion

The Zero method is a powerful tool that will clear your inbox, desktop, and mind. It may not be right for everyone; some may argue that clutter and messiness can actually increase creativity, and I know a few people that have mastered the technique of organized chaos. Whether both or neither of these practices are right for you, making a conscience decision on how to handle the day to day cleanliness of your files and emails will go a long way to increase productivity and decrease stress.

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By Daniel O’Sullivan | UX Designer

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