Getting to inbox zero

Today I want to share one of my productivity methods with you. It's about keeping your inbox clean. Or as some would say: Getting to inbox zero.

Maybe you already have a working pattern on how to work with e-mails. If so, then check is they comply with my requirements for a working inbox pattern.

It's important,

  • that you see immediately which e-mails are due,
  • that you find them, when needed and
  • that you don't spam yourself too many kept mails.

How do we find new, due and unanswered e-mails?

They land right in this one folder of yours. Luckily they do this in your inbox folder. So why don't use it for this case.

Now all the other mail – the ones we don't need right now – should be kept out of our sight. We do want to keep some, other may be relieved. The later ones we store in the trash. All the others we move to our Done or Safe folder. E-mails we want to keep forever go into our safe. All others are moved into the Done folder; no exceptions!

You ask why not store them in folders like private, business or volleyball team? We are going for big wins here. To store an e-mail in the the right one of these you will have to think. We don't want that. We want you to be fast. Really fast.
If you worry about finding e-mails, then let me tell you about a better solution later.

So put each e-mail either in Done of Safe.

When a new e-mail arrives, (read it) and start to act:

  • I don't need it > Trash
  • I can do it right away > Do it and move it to Done
  • I can do it later > Keep it in you inbox
  • I must keep this > Move it into your Safe

Remember, your safe is for e-mail, that you want to keep 5 years or longer. Even order acknowledgements, documents etc. go to Done, because your inbox is not an archive (you have a hard drive for that). You inbox will be getting full from time to time. Then just go to your Done folder and delete some of the older mails.

So make some room now and move ALL your mails into Done. Show some courage for gaps. Pour is all in! Trust me...

Well done. That wasn't hard, was it?

You are looking for an e-mails now?

No problem. Let someone search for you, who is faster and more precise. Your computer.

Use the search field using words, e-mail addresses, people and all of these combined. Depending on your program you can search all your mail or just the Done folder. This becomes relevant, when you do this on your mobile.

Give it a few tries to get to know the functionality. You will love it!

How do I keep from spamming myself?

Now, most of your junk moves into the trash now. When you reach 80-90% of you mailbox size, just delete the oldest mails from your Done folder.

In some e-mail apps you can actually make it a rule to delete attachments or entire copies of older e-mails in a special folder. This way you can save even more time. I keep e-mails and attachments for about 2 years.


In our inbox we can see all new and due e-mails. We delete everything we don't really need. Really important stuff goes into the safe. Everything in between into our Done folder. We find mails via the search function.

And the one best thing about it? We don't need a lot of time to move into this pattern.

I am using it for more than 10 years now. It's great!