Zero Inbox: The Power of a Fresh Start

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How much time are you spending searching through your email looking for that email you were supposed to respond to but forgot? How often do you find it? I have a simple solution for this and it does not include a huge email folder system that only the so called “Power Users” use. This system may not be for everyone, but it for the majority of us.
So you know those 13,000 unread emails sitting in your inbox that you keep promising yourself you’re going to read? Let me clue you into something, YOU’RE NEVER GOING TO READ THEM! Let’s take some action right now to give you a fresh start with your email. I’ve got three steps for you to follow to make this happen.
Step 1. Archive – I was one of those people that thought I was ahead of the curve since all the email in my inbox was read (about 3k emails).  The problem was that I was missing all kinds of emails and forgot to respond to things way too often. I got sick of the embarrassing reminders that I forgot something else and finally decided to get control of this thing. I selected all the emails in my inbox and hit Archive. In the Mail app on a Mac, go to the Edit menu to Select All, then under the Message menu choose Archive. This may sound a bit scary to you, I felt a little nervous about the idea at first, but let me assure you, all the email is going to be just fine, it’s just moving out of your line of sight. If you are using Gmail I would suggest you go to to do this if you have over a few thousand emails.  Mail can get bogged down and take forever. Click here for instructions on how to do this for a Gmail account.
Step 2. Scan the past month of Archive for the action items – Once all the email is in the Archive folder, you’ll want to click on it and make sure that giant list you’ve been coddling is still there. It’s still there right?! Of course it is. Now, I want you to start scrolling through those emails and start finding things that you should still need to take action on and drag them back into the inbox. 
Step 3. Take action NOW! – Now that your inbox only has items in there that need to need be acted upon, if it only takes a second, do it now! If it’s going to take a bit longer leave them in the inbox to pressure you to take care of it and that’s it!
If you follow the instructions above I applaud you! Very few people take this step and I’m sure you already feel better already. In order to be successful in managing your email you have to take action. My philosophy is if you have too many choices you’ll get stuck in indecision and take no action. Knowledge is potential power, execution is power. 
This is your starting place, I want you to take this and run with it, but some of you are going to want to start creating a ton of email folders to start filing your email. Don’t create a ton of folders. The fewer the better! I made the mistake of creating a bunch and now I’ve consolidated and have a few that I use every day and that’s it.
If you’re interested in getting some more help on this or some other part of your Apple products, please check out my Contact Me page.

Question: What has held you back from taking action in the past and how did you eliminate it or what are you going to do now?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Great post, I just spend the past 15 minutes responding, deleting, or archiving my emails. Now my inbox is down to 6 emails and I feel a lot better. Great tips here!

    • Dan, so glad you took action and cleared this off your plate. It’s been 2 weeks since you archived your email. How is the follow through? Is there a certain type of email that gets left in a mailbox for a while and screws up the efficiency? If so, what can you put in place to keep that from happening?
      Every once in a while I get a snag like this and things start to pile up. The trick is to identify what that message is and why I’m avoiding it. Good luck!

  • Brandon Triola

    Great post Shawn! Such a simple/practical way for people to make progress in life!

    • Thanks, Brandon! Great to see you around here!