10 steps to inbox zero - day 3 of 30 day content creation challenge

10 Steps To Tame Your Inbox (from an 11000+ Email Hoarder)

I love a good system. But try as I might, my Gmail inbox remains a thorn in my side. Yes, I’m a recovering email hoarder.

I tried to be systematic, unsubscribing, deleting one by one, filtering, deleting spam and sent…but it still was taking way too long to get to the mythical “inbox zero”. And each day there were more, more, more. Like rabbits multiplying in my inbox.

Until I discovered a way to pile drive my way through in one day, by filtering, labelling, archiving, and selectively searching for phrases I KNEW I didn’t need to keep.

That’s how I tamed my inbox, and went from 11000 emails to the much acclaimed “inbox zero”.

How did this happen???

We all get busy right? And that little task turns into a bigger chore.

I’m not really an email hoarder (well, there are SOME that I kept “just in case”, maybe a few hundred.)

However I typically scan the email headlines, often on my mobile phone. Then I don’t actually DO anything with them. Therein lies the problem. And it’s amazing how quickly the clutter, aka the unsorted emails, accumulate.

Things I did a little differently to tame my inbox:

  • When giving advice on “inbox zero”, people mostly talk about organizing into 4 folders – BEFORE you even get to the “empty inbox” phase. Let’s skip that advice. Ditch and pitch first, email system strategy later.
  • No one talks about group labels/filters – i think they are incredibly important and i use them the way I do Canva folders and Twitter lists. For example:
    • Top 10 to Stalk This Year – where is my business now, what do i need to focus on this year for growth or to get unstuck? Subscribe ONLY to those 10 newsletters. Want a new one? Ditch another on the list!
    • Copywriting/Email Series/Sales Funnels – who writes emails that I LOVE to read, who inspires me, who has a great sales funnel and copywriting and email headlines/subject lines that I can reference when it comes to my own launches, or use as examples for my clients or courses.
    • Current trends and industry news – people or brands that provide content that I can curate and share, or that keeps me abreast of what is new in social media, web design, and email marketing.

10 steps to get you to inbox zero.

You can watch the video version, or jump to the step by step outline below.

Step 1. Take a screenshot of the number of emails in your inbox and that are “unread”. Take a screenshot AFTER you’ve completed the steps below… so you can feel proud of what you have accomplished (and you can hit reply and show me how well you did!)

Step 2. Use the search function in different ways – filter sent, draft, dates older than, file attachments larger than, and so on.

Step 3. Go to your Gmail settings and choose 100 emails per page – it’s a good size to skim through and get a snapshot in your mind of what to tackle.

Step 4. When using Select All (the little box at the top, above the “primary” tab and below the search bar), be sure to click on the “All 100 conversations on this page are selected. Select all 3,917 conversations in”

Step 5. Select the Social tab + delete contents (nothing mega-important there)

Step 6. Select Promotions tab + delete (probably nothing that important)

Step 7. Select Drafts + delete

Step 8. Select Sent – if you have filters (i have “clients” and “templates”) then move to archive. Otherwise, decide how important they are? (ie have you accessed them in the last year? Do you have the original saved on your computer or elsewhere – ie client procedure docs)

Step 9. View your first 100 emails subject lines and “from” email – are there common phrases? For instance I did search for these phrases because I knew I could safely delete them as they are typically time-sensitive and would no longer be relevant.

  • “Jetpack monitor”
  • “Confirm subscription”
  • “Google alert”
  • “Watch replay”
  • “Join us”
  • “Doors closing”
  • “Thank you for subscribing”
  • “Out of office”

Step 10. Create filters for people, projects or groups of newsletters/industry news that you can’t quite delete yet – then archive them. In fact, archive everything left that you feel desperately attached too. The idea is if you check in every few months, you will feel less and less attached and more more to the trash.


From this….

Screen shot 2016-04-24 at 9.36.28 PM

to this 🙂

Screen shot 2016-04-29 at 2.22.26 PM

Tackle your inbox yourself or outsource? That is the Question.

Sounds easy right?

Well, it’s simple, tedious, boring work. But most people can’t bear to let a virtual assistant sort through what is essentially the underwear drawer of your business life. If you decide to outsource this admin task, check out the Smart Passive Income Podcast episode #115 where Pat Flynn invites his VA to describe her process of “email bankruptcy” that got him from 9000+ emails to inbox zero.

If you go it alone, pick a week, dedicate a few hours every day, and plow through it.

It probably took me 3 part-days where I allotted big chunks of time. It got easier as I could see the results and finally wade through the last several hundred emails by using the “stash it and forget it” method of archiving them.

Now to keep it that way!

Here is another resource you might find helpful in keeping an organized inbox.

Getting to inbox zero (plus that 5 folder strategy) on Gillian Duffy’s blog: http://gillianduffy.net/inbox-zero-it-really-is-possible/

3 Key Takeaways:

1. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to completely ditch some inbox junk. Going through it one by one is NOT the right way, nor, in my opinion, is simply archiving everything. That’s like taking all of your clutter and shoving it into a closet, hoping no one will open the door! By being strategic and trashing big chunks, it makes the task manageable and effective.

2. Unsubscribe in bulk with Unroll.me. I found the tool highly effective to skim down a list and choose: add to rollup (daily digest of your newsletters/emails), unsubscribe, or keep in inbox. I actually didn’t like the daily digest – while it was nice to get them in one lump each day (thereby saving you from popping over to check your email every time a new notification popped up), it wasn’t idea if you keep some for reference or for filtering into an archived folder.

3. Know when to call it quits. That means either accepting that some emails will go unanswered, or archiving a few thousand to save your sanity. I’m telling you, it’s ok. Will you have missed something important? Maybe. But most likely it was just another announcement that you won the lottery, or that a rich savvy prince in some foreign country has decided to give you thousands of dollars to invest (er, hide) for him.

Your turn. Share in the comments below:

Do you have any tricks to keeping a decluttered email inbox? A special system to sort and filter emails?

or are you about to embark on your own journey to inbox zero?

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