Ten days ago I used the Mailbox app to achieve Inbox Zero. It was as easy as taking care of the handful of emails that needed taking care of, and then hitting the handy “archive everything” button on the app.
But the thing is, I’ve done this before, not using an app but directly in Gmail. I’d “select all” and then “mark everything as read”. But that pleasant, empty mailbox state of affairs never lasted. Two or three days later, the emails would start piling up again, and within a week I’d be back where I’d started, with a gazillion unread emails waiting for me.
So the real question was, could I maintain Inbox Zero?
It’s been ten days, and I am pretty confident now that I can. See those pretty empty Mailbox pictures at the top of this post? The Mailbox app shows you a different one each day, but only if your inbox is empty. It actually makes my day to see each pretty new picture.
I’ve managed to empty mine out every day since I first got my inbox to zero, so lots of pretty little pictures!
I don’t think I could have done it without the Mailbox app, though. Here’s what I’m doing to maintain a clean inbox:
- For the first couple of days, I unsubscribed to everything that landed in my inbox that I knew I would never get around to reading.
- I now check each piece of email once and (this is the big thing) I do something with it right away.
- Here are my options for each email: reply then archive, trash, archive or put in a folder. I also sometimes use the Mailbox app’s snooze function, which lets me put an email away for now but have it scheduled to show up again at a later time, like later today or tomorrow or after the weekend.
- So far I have the following folders: To Do, To Listen, To Read, To Reply, Reference, Indexes and Writing. Every piece of mail that I don’t archive or trash goes into one of these folders.
The only downside is that I now prefer checking email on my phone – the Mailbox app just makes it so easy to go through my email. From the inbox screen, all it takes is a swipe. For an opened email, it just requires a tap. If your inbox doesn’t have a lot of email in it, there’s even a way to batch sort the emails – you can swipe from the bottom and send all the emails to your archive, to the trash, or to a folder.
So I’ve taken to checking my email on my phone rather than on my computer, even if I’m actually sitting in front of my laptop. Then I’ll go to Gmail on my laptop and deal with anything I’ve put in “To Reply”, because I much prefer typing on my keyboard rather than on my phone.
Maintaining Inbox Zero has been quite effortless. I do need to set aside time every day or so to go through everything in the to-do folder, but that’s about it.
In the past, I’ve had times when I’ve had over a thousand emails in each of my two Gmail accounts. I’d trained myself to tune out the little red alert on the mail app on my phone, until I discovered I could just go into settings and turn the alert off. Even though I didn’t realize it, having all those unread emails sitting in my inbox was draining – I knew eventually I’d have to deal with it all. Not only that, I’d gotten to the point where important emails from clients would sometimes get buried in that big mess of unread emails.
I feel so much more productive these days, simply because I’ve got a good handle on my email. The best part? Nothing slips through the cracks any more!