Couple of tricks to manage a Zero Inbox

A zero inbox is that wonderful feeling of knowing you’ve taken care of business. Discover a couple of wee tricks to make this easy to maintain.

We love our email.  Sure, new kids come along, fluttering their eye lids at us vying for our attention, promising to be the email killer.  Skype, Hangouts, Slack, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and many others have tried but email is still the killer app.

How we contextualize our email is a very personal thing.  We all have our own wee ways of handling, flagging, replying, archiving, storing of email.   Personally I am an advocate of the Zero Inbox philosophy – which is simple – keep the inbox as free of items as possible.   The feeling a zero inbox brings is that of knowing no one is waiting for you, or at least you have dealt with the immediate threat.

I use my Inbox as my unofficial/official to do list.  I have tried many a ToDo app, but every single one has failed to stick.  My email however, has been with me throughout and never failed me.


While it can be difficult to maintain this state, there are a couple of states that will allow you to mentally park emails.   I have two types of emails that will stop me from removing them from the inbox upon reading;  emails I want to read later (articles, newsletters, digests) and emails that I have to actually do something.

To solve this I create two mail folders, each to manage the two given types of emails I receive.   The first one “__00_7days” is a folder that has a special sprinkling of pixie dust – it auto deletes emails over 7 days.  Majority of email services offer this folder level feature and most ‘Spam‘ folders are auto set to delete after 30 days by your mail administrator anyway.  If I don’t get to read something within 7 days then so what, at least it won’t pile up and make me feel guilty that I am falling behind.

The second folder, “__00_ToDo” has all my items that I need to do and is not auto-aging.  My email is literally my ToDo app.

Of course it is all a sleight of hand trick.  All I have done is to move items from the inbox and put them elsewhere.  Yes, but the difference is that I have mentally dealt with the email and taking action accordingly.  I can now relax and take pride in an empty inbox.

Sometimes, it is the small things that can make for a happy day.  For me, a zero inbox, is indeed a fine day.


p.s. when you come back from vacation and faced with a mountain of work email, SelectAll then Delete.  If it was meant to be, the email will find its way back to you.  Zero inbox.

Author: Alan Williamson

CTO | Partner | Investor | Java Champion | Author | Podcaster | Speaker | Architect

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