Inbox Zero – How to clean your inbox!

How full is too full?

Whether you realize it or not, an inbox that is full, ill-managed or constantly being checked greatly diminishes your productivity. We all know that ‘ding’ is like Pavlov ringing his bell and it instantly draws our attention to whatever the news is that has just entered the banner on our screen. So how do we un-train ourselves and stop being a slave to our email? Through baby steps.

This week, we will introduce you to the first steps to Inbox Zero—an inbox free of any and all emails! You don’t really need any more details than the name to know that it sounds heavenly. We’ll start with a few small ways to begin the cleanup and then, in a future email, we will talk about maintaining your beautiful new inbox! It will be like giving it that new car smell, only without the new car payment!

The first step is to go through your emails and UNSUBSCRIBE from ALL those that provide no value to you on a very regular basis. This can be very liberating! It will drastically reduce the amount of time you have to deal with clearing your folder daily, and it goes a long way towards not adding more to your already taxed mental to-do list.

Next, you will need a plan to clean out what is in your inbox. This is where we are going to go really bold, and we know many of you won’t go this route, but here goes. Want an empty inbox? Select all and delete. There, we said it! (Just the process of typing that makes me want Xanax.)

So, what is another alternative, since we don’t want to cause any heart palpitations. Start with the emails that have come in the last 48 hours. Go through them thoroughly. Then each following day, do the same process until your inbox reaches zero and you are once again in control!

Not in love with either of those options? Put a specific day and time on your calendar when you will do nothing but go through your inbox. Treat it just like you would any meeting or other business obligation. Taking some scheduled time now will give you so much more time and freedom in the future, you won’t regret it!

Once you have decided on a method of how to clean up, you will need a process in place to deal with each and every email (Unless of course, you chose the delete all methodology, in which case you deserve some kind of award). You will need to address every email in your box. Each email should fall into a category below:

Delete: Make sure to unsubscribe first, if applicable.

Do: If it can be dealt with in under 2 minutes, then do the task/response that is required in the email now. Then delete or file accordingly.

Decide: If you can’t complete the task in under 2 minutes, then file accordingly. Example folders to utilize are:

  • Due Today-Emails needing a response that can’t be completed in 2 minutes but must be done today.
  • Waiting for Response-Items needing response or action from someone else.
  • Calendar Items/Pending-Items for future reference such as travel, business meetings, or reservations.

Of course, you can develop files that work best for you, but don’t go overboard. Don’t worry if you don’t get it exactly right the first time. You can always tweak your system.

Now you know how to carefully work through your emails towards achieving Inbox Zero! But without a plan for maintenance, in a matter of minutes, it will be on its way to full again. Click here to learn how to keep it clean!


The incredible thing about the internet is that we can work anywhere! Woodchuck Arts is geo-located in Newark, Ohio, Caledonia, MI and Toledo, OH. We serve clients from Seattle, Washington, to Washington D.C.

Email Heather at or call 724-281-0559
Email Erin at or call 616-528-2747

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