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9 Tricks to Get to Inbox Zero

Inbox Zero sounds like a myth when you first hear about it and a farce when you first attempt it.


finally got to Inbox Zero earlier this year thanks to tips from experts and friends on Lift. I just added the habit back again after falling off the wagon in June and revisited the tips that helped me clear my email inbox the first time.

Tips from the Expert: Kelly Forrister

Kelly Forrister is Senior Getting Things Done (GTD) Coach with David Allen Company and leader of the Getting Things Done group on Lift.

  1. Be realistic about how much time you need each day for emptying your inboxes. Estimate is about 30 seconds to make a decision on each piece of input.
  2. Watch the “need to decide about…” emails that get stuck in your inbox. Do you truly just need to decide? Or is there some information you don’t have yet, that you could get, to help you decide and clear the email?
  3. Move your backlog out of your inbox. Deal with your backlog as a separate project from your day-to-day input. Pick a point in time you know represents backlog (two weeks old? two months old?) and get those all of the Inbox, to snack on as you can. There’s a good chance that the day-to-day will feel a whole lot less daunting and manageable.

Tips from the Lift Community

From people who have successfully reached Inbox Zero on Lift.

  1. Delete or archive emails you don’t need to read. This is an especially helpful trick on Day 1. It’s a quick way to reduce your inbox count plus seeing the unread mail count go down will give you a boost of momentum to tackle the rest of your emails.
  2. Unsubscribe from newsletters. It’s such a pain to go through the unsubscribe link for each newsletter but you’ll save oodles of time not processing emails in the future.
  3. Set up filters. If you’re using Gmail, read this helpful guide .
  4. Filter emails with the word “unsubscribe” into a junk folder. I use this trick for my personal email inbox. This best kept secret in email is fallible but unsurprisingly, most important emails don’t include the word ‘unsubscribe.’
  5. Separate people from Robots: One of our engineers, Matt, filters automated emails he wants to read into a Robots folder. This way he can still read them but they don’t clutter his inbox. I started doing this, too.
  6. Don’t give up. If you fall off the wagon, don’t get discouraged, just get back on. Even experts like Kelly have bad days, which she sharedon Lift:


How to Start the Habit:

Right Now: Take a few seconds to look at your email count. Don’t judge, just be aware of where you’re at.

Then: If you’re not happy with that number, check out the GTD site forfree articles filled with strategies to get to Inbox Zero and join theGetting Things Done group on Lift.