How I Get to Inbox Zero

Do you dream of inbox zero but always have 1000+ unfinished emails?

I don’t. Dealing with the idea that I might be missing an important email or might fail to reply to someone timely, doesn’t make me feel comfortable.

That’s why I can’t stand an inbox with unread emails and I clear it every day. And you should too.

Getting to inbox zero each day, however, doesn’t mean I spent most of my day in the mail app. Far from it. I only check my email once per day. Here’s how I do it.

First of all, I want everything in one place. That’s why all my emails are redirected to the Apple mail app. If you use other software, here are forwarding instructions for Microsoft and Google.

Use folders to organise mail

My emails are organised into six folders. For two folders, the emails are sorted automatically, the other four, I organise manually.

The automatic folders are “Sunday” and “Blog”.

These are the most important ones. Nearly every newsletter I’m subscribed to immediately goes to the Sunday folder. This means I don’t have to deal with them on a daily basis and I don’t get distracted reading them while I should be working.

Then, on Sunday, when else, I schedule one to two hours to read all the newsletters at once, including any interesting links.

The blog folder contains emails about website growth, SEO and the like. I check those emails when I schedule some time to work on the website.

The manual folders are “Receipts”, “Work”, “Learn” and “Important”.

  • “Receipts” is for online receipts.
  • “Work” for all closed topics related to my freelance jobs.
  • “Learn” for emails of online courses I’ve bought.
  • “Important” is for documents or information that don’t go in other categories.

Limit email use

As I said, I try to use email only once per day. I open the app in the morning, delete, organise or reply to mails and close when I’m finished. Unless I’m expecting something very urgent, I don’t open it for the rest of the day.

Email is not that important. It’s usually not urgent. The most urgent things happen over the phone. Keep that in mind.

Not having my email open the entire day means that I don’t get distracted all the time.

How to get to Inbox Zero

Inbox zero, literally, is the goal but not reaching it, isn’t a problem. A maximum of five read but unorganised emails is still acceptable.

I always have ongoing conversations or things I want to get back to the next day. If you have more ongoing conversations, it’s probably fine to have more emails in your inbox.

To keep your inbox close to zero, these three tips will help.

  1. Unsubscribe from promotion mails to save yourself precious minutes each day. Schedule one long time block to unsubscribe from all unwanted emails. Or unsubscribe one at a time on a daily basis.
  2. Make it a daily habit to get your email down to a maximum of five.
  3. Organise into folders. This is especially useful for emails that don’t require replies, like receipts. Use other folders for “leisure email”. Automatically organise your favourite reads into folders so you don’t get distracted while you’re at work.

Good luck!

Original photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Kjell VDV

Kjell Vandevyvere is a coaching and teaching enthusiast. He's always been fond of reading and writing. In Top Three Guide, he combines all his passions. A few months ago he could be found around Cochabamba’s classrooms and soccer pitches 7/7. Now, he’s living a monks life behind his computer. Some say he never stops learning or writing. Learn more about Loki and myself on the about us page.

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