Stress-Free Email With Inbox Zero

Email is one piece of technology that is both awesome and annoying. The speed of communication is extremely helpful but oftentimes we find ourselves flooded with so many emails that the important things get drowned out.

How many unread emails do you have right now? How many emails do you see when you open your inbox? I have zero!

My email account used to be a quasi reminder system to complete a task, or respond to someone. Any unread email meant there was something I had to do. Many times these would get lost on page 2 of my gmail inbox so I got in the habit of forwarding myself emails over and over to keep them at the top of my list of growing projects to do.

Maybe we’re doing email wrong

Emails, like letters, phone calls, and old-school telegraphs are intended to make communication easier. Unfortunately we’re not just using it to correspond – we’re running our lives through it.

What happens when we don’t have a plan for our inbox?

  • Lack of organization. We can’t find what we need and we waste time looking for it. “Where was that email that had the notes from the meeting?”
  • Things are lost or forgotten. We forget a deadline or a priority because we read the email, didn’t do anything with it, and 300 more emails piled in on top of it. “Sorry – I remember getting an email about that but I forgot that was today.”
  • We stress trying to remember things. Piggy-backing on the previous point – our brains are constantly juggling all the things we have to remember. “I need to remember to respond to that email with the details for the project.”

Inbox Zero – an alternative approach

Inbox Zero is a new way of processing emails. I started implementing it about a year ago and I love it!

The basic premise of Inbox Zero is that every time you check your email you clean out your entire inbox. That alone sounds extremely overwhelming to some – it was for me at first. But it gets easy!

Right now every time an email comes in you are probably either responding to that email, doing a small task to take care of a request, or trying to remember to do something later.

Using Inbox Zero you take each email and do one of three things with it.

  1. Respond to the email immediately if it takes less than 2-minutes.
  2. Process it to your task management system if it requires more than 2-minutes of work.
  3. Ignore the email and unsubscribe from this sender if possible.

With all three options you immediately archive the email. This means every time you finish checking email your inbox is completely clean – at zero!

Inbox Zero = less stress

I’m a lot less stressed when I’m not struggling to remember things. Since moving to this system I’ve been amazed how much more clear my brain is to focus on my work because there is less background noise of trying to remember everything I need to do.

A note on task-management

Task management is it’s own beast to tackle at another time – but the point of Inbox Zero is to remember your tasks outside of your email. It’s terribly inefficient to try and keep reminders stacked in with all your other communication.

Instead, try keeping a pad of sticky-notes by your desk and write out a to-do note for every item. Or, schedule time on your calendar for each to-do item so it doesn’t get lost. Even simply having a sheet of paper with running list of check-boxes of tasks makes it much easier to remember everything than storing it in your email.

Google Inbox – the perfect tool for Inbox Zero!

Google’s Inbox email system and app work perfectly for Inbox Zero so long as you have a gmail account (or use Google Apps for business). You mark each email that comes in as “Done” and it removes it from your general inbox. This can also be accomplished by simply archiving all your emails as you process them on your iPhone.

One of my favorite features of Google Inbox is the ability to snooze an email. Snoozing emails helps bring them to my attention exactly when I need them and keeps my inbox uncluttered.

Test Inbox Zero for yourself

I’ve tried implementing Inbox Zero across several email platforms including Outlook. I simply delete every single email that comes into my Outlook after I respond or create a to-do item for it. They’re all archived and accessible if I ever need them – but 99.9% of the time I never need to look back for them.

It’s a little scary to archive or delete every email and start from zero. I was intimidated at first. But if you stay dedicated to this system it will save you a lot of time and stress and free your mind to focus on the important things.

Still have questions?

Still have questions on Inbox Zero and how it works? Want to learn more about how you can try it on your email account? I’d love to talk through this topic with you further. Feel free to email me at

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