when your inbox is out of control

I’ve only ever achieved true ~inbox zero~ on one occasion. It was fleeting, but it felt amazing to know I was so on top of my shit. I spend five minutes every day on my inbox. I may never again achieve ~inbox zero~ but at least I no longer fear perishing under the enormous digital weight of my inbox.

Here’s what I do:


  1. Set up folders. I have all the folders. I have several projects that each have several streams of work, so I have five or six work stream folders within every project folder.
  2. I like to be able to see all my folders in the sidebar without having to scroll, so I move folders into larger category folders. For example, when one project wraps up, I move it into the Completed Projects folder so it’s out of sight and out of mind, but easy to access when I need to.


  1. Make yourself a tea/pour yourself a glass of wine and put on some tunes. Some suggestions on the listens page.
  2. Start with the clutter. The coupons, the subscription reminder from the dating app you stopped using two years ago, and the marketing emails you’re getting because one time you keep giving your address out for contest entries. This doesn’t have to be the worst task in the world. Sign yourself up for unroll.me as soon as you can. This is the best thing that has ever happened to my inbox. Unroll.me will give you a list of every email in your inbox that is considered a subscription. Unsubscribe to some (or all) of them directly from the unroll.me platform. What you want to stay subscribed to but don’t necessarily need to see it as soon as it comes in, add it to your daily roll-up: a single email delivered once a day with all your subscription content in one handy place.
  3. Now review what is remaining in your mailbox. Don’t dwell on the emails. Scan each email and flag any that require action on your part, or that you decide you need to read in greater detail before filing it away.
  4. Move any emails not requiring action into your fab new folders. Create new folders or change folder names to best reflect the content of your inbox.
  5. You should be left with an inbox full of red-flagged action items. Hooray!


  1. Work through your remaining action emails in whatever order makes sense to you.
  2. Complete the easy tasks as you go: respond with that quick approval email, reply to your calendar invitations, and help your colleagues do their job by addressing the little things you might be holding up. (You’re such a good coworker!)
  3. As you complete tasks, un-flag the email and move it into the appropriate folder. Guys, I swear, it feels almost as satisfying as checking an item off a hard copy list.
  4. Spend five minutes at the beginning or end of your day (or like, whenever – you do you, boo) to get your inbox sorted out.
  5. Take a break – you earned it, bro!

How do you stay on top of your inbox?


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