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For a while now, Dave and I have been playing "inbox zero" and I have to admit, it has changed my life! Ever the evangelist, I want to try and inspire everyone else to play too!


  • Are you overwhelmed by tens of thousands of emails in your inbox?
  • Ever read an email and thought "I'll respond later", only to get a follow up email weeks later asking why you ignored them first time round?
  • Think you'd like to use a 'to-do list' but don't want yet another system to forget to look at?

If the answer any of these questions is a YES, you need to play inbox zero.


(NB: This is based on using the gmail interface - it may work the same with i-mail, outlook or thunderbird, but because I don't use them much, I can't say for sure).

  • Start with a clean slate (this is the scary bit) - set your inbox to zero by archiving everything. Yes - everything! Don't panic - using 'archive' means it is still there so you can always find stuff again by using the search function,
  • From now on, every email that comes in can be dealt with in 3 ways:
    • Junk/ never need again can be trashed
    • Need to keep but have already responded/ dealt with (or don't need to respond/ deal with) can be archived
    • Need to deal with/ respond to but can't right now - keep in your inbox
  • If you are anything like me, you will find that most of your emails are dealt with in the first 2 ways and therefore never linger in your inbox. Then, the only stuff in your inbox is stuff that needs dealing with (thus becoming a defacto 'to-do list').
  • To make this your only 'to-do list', when you think of something you need to add, simply email it to yourself.


  • Attempt to maintain a blissful state of inbox zero.
  • Let your competitive streak run riot and keep your inbox count lower than anyone else (as I write, I am at 45, so some work is needed to ensure I end the day on less than Dave - otherwise it will seriously spoil my Christmas!).

Top tips for advanced Inbox Zero-ers:

  • Got any annoying auto-emails (receipts and stuff) that you need to keep but don't want cluttering your inbox? Set up an auto-filter to automatically label & archive it so you don't have to do it every time they email you.
  • Dedicate 15 minutes at the end of each day to playing inbox zero - it is a good way of keeping it under control.
  • If it does get out of control... simply archive everything and start again!

Enjoy an new world of email karma!


productivity email inbox zero