The Zen of zero… 7 ways to clear your inbox every day


Can you imagine reaching the Zen of having your inbox at completely zero? community Manager Brad Patterson shares his top tips for achieving email nirvana…


I get a ton of emails and have to handle them all fairly quickly. I actually love email and it’s because I rock it out and it does feel like a very effective tool for me in my position. Here are my top tips for you, and I’d love to hear how you rock out your email below in the comments…

It’s easier to deal with 100 emails than 200

Decide what comes into your inbox and how.  You can use filters for all of your internet deals, blog subsciptions and newsletters… or I personally prefer to not go that extra mile and use one of these two services that are stellar (that do the same thing automatically) / sanebox.  They also make it easy to unsubscribe which you really should do with anything you don’t click on once a week.

Forget the saying “check my email”

PROCESS it. For every email in your inbox, there should be only three options

  • reply immediately (and quickly)
  • delegate to a colleague
  • star it for later (if the reply will take too long or if it’s not important now)

DO NOT sit in your inbox

This is the most fatal sin of all. Get in and get out. My personal rule is to not process email more than once every hour. If you need to be on Gchat and send out emails, then try Boomerang’s handy “pause” function and simply unpause every hour or two to process your inbox again.

Use Gmail short cuts

They’re the best thing since sliced bread… and will seriously reduce your time in the inbox. Great introductory post here with some of the most useful shortcuts to make into a habit.  AND, habits aren’t easy to develop if you don’t repeat them regularly, so send the post just mentioned to yourself every day with this nifty trick…

Email (a very cool reminder service) and review the gmail shorcut tips until you got ‘em down

If at all, possible, reply to everything in under two minutes and keep your replies direct, succint (and hopefully less than five sentences – it saves you and your contact time). If that’s not possible, star that email to deal with it later, and process the rest of your inbox first. Great post here explaining the two-minute rule and general zero inbox logic.

Deal with things NOW not later

If it’s something you’ll need to handle at a specific time, or if you need to follow-up with someone later, don’t star it… Boomerang it. Just like the pause button mentioned above this is another great tool from Baydin that allows you to choose when something comes back into your inbox (so you can deal with it at the right time (or follow-up with someone at the right time).

It has another function called Send Later where you can always choose when you send emails to your contacts.  Why?  Well, as our clients at are based in Australia, California, France, India, Argentina and all over, it’s important to time when you send them an email – and an extra tip – the best time to email someone is… if they’re a colleague, 7am so it’s near the top of their inbox, and if it’s email marketing based, here’s the tip.

Don’t be afraid to delete and archive everything that’s done

Delete, delete, delete anything that won’t matter to you in the future. For the rest, set up the “send and archive” button. Nothing should be in your inbox that isn’t immediately actionable. Also, don’t be afraid to mute any conversation that is not longer pertinent to you (shortcut is “m”).

For related posts, check out:

Drowning in emails? 5 extreme ways to clear your inbox
Never get trashed again! 8 ways to email more effectively

Image credits:
Mailbox: flickr user thegajman