how to get to inbox zero


One of my goals for this month is to get to inbox zero. When I first published the post, I kind of felt a bit ashamed, admitting I had over a hundred unread emails; I thought people would be horrified at what a terrible manager of emails I am. And then people began to comment, telling me they had five hundred, one thousand, three thousand unread emails. So I thought I would share a little insight as to how I intend to get down to the fabled inbox zero, in the hope that it will help or perhaps inspire others.

1. Search for “unsubscribe”

If you’re anything like me, the majority of your unread emails is made up of newsletters you never read and just don’t get around to deleting. Search your mailbox for “unsubscribe” and it should bring up a whole host of random newsletters. Now you have two options. The first is to go through and unsubscribe from each one. The second (and my preferred choice) is to just delete the whole lot. Then when the next newsletter comes in, you can make the decision on a spam-by-spam basis as to whether you wish to keep receiving these mails (and either read or unsubscribe at the time). A great site for helping with newsletters is¬†– it allows you to mass unsubscribe from newsletters.

2. File, file, file

Don’t leave things languishing in your inbox. There is a lot to be said for setting up rules or filters (or whatever your email provider calls it) where emails of a certain type are automatically sent to a set folder without ever hitting your inbox – then you can have a set time to be working on a specific task, and look at that folder for emails. This doesn’t work for me; I like to see what’s coming in as it does. Once I’ve seen what’s here though, I aim to immediately move it to a folder, based on what it is. For example, Blog, work, taxes etc. I’m still working on this one but I’ve done it before and it really worked!

3. Don’t mark as unread!

A lot of people (myself included) tend to rely on quickly skimming through an email, then marking it as unread with the idea that we’ll come back and deal with it later. That works if you have 3 emails in your mailbox. When you have loads of unread mail, it becomes impossible to remember which “unread” mails are the ones you’ve looked at and decided to go back to, and which are genuinely unread mails you’ve yet to look at. You just end up having to go back through them all one by one, and that defeats the object, no?

4. Be disciplined.

Whether you decide to mass delete or do it one by one, whether you’re unsubscribing from your newsletters or filing them for a day when you’re keen to read a load of junk mail, whether you’re having your mails skip the inbox and go straight to a folder, or manually moving them – you need to make the decision, and stick to it. On a week day, I get well over a hundred new emails. I’m sure you do as well. Getting to inbox zero isn’t something you just do once, and then carry on – you need to put a plan in place so that the next time an email lands in your inbox, you deal with it straight away – either by deleting, actioning and then archiving, or filing for later follow-up. You need to make “doing my emails” a daily thing, and keep at it!

5. Don’t go mad on folders!

I’ve seen mailboxes with fifty folders listed down the left-hand side. That’s just ridiculous; in terms of keeping track of your emails, trawling through fifty folders is harder than just having a thousand unread mails in your inbox. Try to keep your folders pretty wide in their scope. For example, instead of having folders for “sponsored posts”, “blogging projects” and “guest posts,” create one big folder called “blog” and shove all unread blog-related emails in there. By all means, create sub-folders within that for different types of blog emails; you can file them there once you’ve been through your Blog folder. The fewer folders you have, the easier they are to manage and keep track of.

6. Make friends with your archive button!

If your inbox is anything like mine, it quickly gets filled up with online order confirmations, reminders for meetings and appointments, and other things you don’t really want to delete (just in case) but don’t need to have staring you in the face every time you open your email. Try to get into the habit of archiving everything you don’t actually need to read and deal with – and archiving everything as and when you read or deal with it. That way you can always go back and find your order confirmation if there’s an issue – but it’ll be out of the way until that point.


There we go – my top tips for getting to the fabled inbox zero. Do you have any other tips for taking control of your inbox? I’d love to hear them!

Vicky Charles

Vicky is a single mother, writer and card reader.


Catherine · 22/05/2015 at 20:48

Getting my Inbox down to zero is a constant battle, especially when I read mails on my phone. They don’t get immediately sorted until I’m on my laptop and have lots more to deal with!


Hannah Atkinson · 22/05/2015 at 23:08

I’m not popular enough to have that many unread emails! I do hope to one day empty my inbox of read emails and file them or delete them. That will be fun as I’m well into the thousands. Thanks for the prompt #weekendbloghop

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