How to Create Mailbox Zero

Your mailbox is swamped with hundreds or thousands of emails, and a lot of them are unread. You just don’t have the time; it’s just too much! Well, here’s a way to get your inbox organized and your head cleared up.

Create some space in your Inbox

  • create a temporary archive folder for the emails in your inbox
  • Move everything older than 48 hours to the temp folder (if your mailbox is really swamped, you might want to reduce that to 24)
Decluttering your mailbox

How to manage your email

  • Go through your emails one by one and decide what to do with it:
    • If you can deal with it within a couple of minutes, do it right away.
    • If it takes longer, schedule it. Put it on your todo-list and specify when you want to start working on it.
    • If it is meant for someone else: forward the message.
    • If it’s unimportant or not relevant, delete it.
  • After dealing with the email, remove it from your Inbox.
    • Delete it if you no longer need it.
    • Put in a different folder if you want to use it or keep it for later reference.
  • Ideally, you do this only a couple of times per day. That will keep you from constantly checking your email and getting distracted.
    • If you notice that an email stays in your Inbox, it means you haven’t decided on it yet. Decide what to do with it and when. Then remove it from the Inbox.

By the way: putting something on your todo-list is not enough. Schedule time to work on the tasks you scheduled.

Cleaning up your mail archive

Now that you have a clean Inbox, you can schedule time to clean up your old emails as well. Don’t try to do this all at once, just schedule a block of say two hours this week. And do the same next week.

Work your way back, and start with the newest emails. You will find that a lot of the issues are already dealt with. If not, put them on your todo-list. But only if they are important enough!

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