Does this sound familiar to you?
Unread emails sparked a heated discussion on Twitter asking the question: What number is appropriate? This identified the two obvious types of email users: The ones that have an overstuffed inbox, bursting with thousands of unreads. And people that need to compulsively get it to zero (I am definitely the second type!).
So why do people leave messages unread? Is the amount awaiting them so overwhelming that you don’t even dare to open them?
So how do we get to INBOX ZERO? It is possible, don’t worry – I’m here to help. So open your inbox and let’s get started:
1. Get those notifications set
Are you working on a difficult task and need to focus? It’s okay to turn your notifications off, but really, you do need to turn them back on again. It’s sensible to avoid any distraction during some tasks, but don’t accumulate emails for too long or else the beast becomes untamable!
Schedule blocks for reading and responding to emails and don’t skip them!
2. Know your enemy
Once checked, you know what you are dealing with. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.
Move Emails to folders, respond to emails that need to be responded immediately, and leave open emails that you don’t know how to respond to at the moment, but that you need to respond to on the same day.
This way, you’ll be more relaxed taking care of other tasks
3. Folders– your besties
The goal is to declutter your Inbox, so come up with some smart specific folders and some more generic ones like “Administration” or “Invoices”. Are you working with clients? Name folders according to them. This makes it also easier to find specific emails when you need them.
Leave only emails in your inbox that you need to respond to or that are important to follow-up on. You can mark them with a star or a flag to visually distinguish more important ones from the rest.
Everything that doesn’t pay the rent, delete it!
3.1 Gmail is special
Gmail needs some special care. Instead of folders like other email clients, Gmail uses labels to categorize messages. Each label name can be found in the sidebar, but emails don’t actually move there, when you label them. They work more like post-it’s, so when you select a label, you’ll see all the messages you assigned to it.
That’s why a single message can have many labels but be present only in one folder.
4. Not only one to rule them all
Finally, I can use a Lord of the rings quote in my blogpost!:
One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.
It might sound extreme, but emails keep coming and once zeroed out, you must take care of that Inbox never overflowing again. For that you don’t only need one rule, but the amount that is fitting for you to rule them, find them and keep unimportant ones out of sight.
Rules help you to identify emails by subject or sender. You can automatically forward them in the correct folder, assign them the proper labels, or even delete them.
5. Unsubscribe from that Newsletter now!
There might have been a time where you made use of those daily diet recipes and sneaker offers, but if you keep on deleting them without a glance, do yourself a favor: Open that email, scroll until the end and click “Unsubscribe”.
Followed all the steps and got a total of zero in your inbox? That does feel good, hey?
From now on you are going to be more focused, relaxed and organized. Don’t let email master you, master your Emails!
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, “The Shadow of the Past“