The freedom of Inbox Zero

8 November 2017

I’ve posted here before about how I achieve Inbox Zero. For years, I had an Inbox Zero habit, so that at the end of the workday, there would be no emails in my inbox. I have to admit that this year I let it slide. In recent months, my goal was 20 emails in my inbox at the end of the day, rather than zero. That proved to be an unsatisfactory goal—it deprived me of the thrill of an empty inbox. Until recently.

Two weeks ago, I emptied my inbox. I made the decisions necessary to move or delete messages. I forwarded some emails to Evernote so I could create reminders and then archived the emails.

Almost without exception, at the end of each day since, I’ve had an empty inbox. (A couple of days I left one or two messages in there to act on in the morning.) This makes the beginning of the day so much easier, since most of the emails that come in before I get up are spam (many them in Italian, weirdly) or news sources I read with my coffee. It’s easy to delete the spam and read, then delete or archive, the news.

I’ve had people scoff when I mention Inbox Zero and how much I enjoy it. I’ve seen organizing experts I respect writing that it’s not an achievable or worthy goal. But I’m here to tell you, my life is so much easier when I maintain my Inbox Zero habit.

Here is why I love emptying my inbox at the end of the day:

  • It forces me to make decisions about the emails I receive: I either respond, archive, delete, or file each one. (I file very few emails; I archive most of those I want to keep and find them with a search.)
  • It prompts me to get rid of junk and unsubscribe from emails that don’t serve me.
  • It means that nothing gets lost in my email inbox.
  • It discourages procrastination—if I want to get the email out of my inbox, I need to act on it. So I’m a prompt responder to people who reach out to me. That’s good for business (and personal relationships).
  • It gives me visual peace and a feeling of accomplishment. Every day.

The best part is that when I have only one day’s email accumulation, it takes me less than five minutes to empty my inbox on a typical day.

I encourage you to give it a try. If you have a lot of emails in your inbox, here are some ideas for getting down to zero without too much angst.

  1. Sort your emails by sender and delete or file as many as you can.
  2. If emails remain in your inbox because they require action, consider putting those actions on your task list, rather than using your inbox as a task list.
  3. Use the tools at your disposal, like flags in your email client, or forwarding emails to Evernote and set a reminder or try Boomerang, if you use gmail, to help you keep track of emails without having to keep them in your inbox.
  4. Act on emails as you read them, rather than letting them languish and clutter up your inbox.
  5. Make ample use of the Archive feature of your email client to get emails that you want to keep but don’t require a reply or action out of your inbox.

Trust me, dealing with email is easier with a streamlined inbox. Inbox Zero is not only achievable, it can be easy to maintain when you commit to it. I’m so glad I’m back on track with it.

(Illustration by Haberdashery Badges via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.)

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About Janine

Janine Adams

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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