Email management has managed to enthrall the corporate world for decades now. Many ideas have been put forth that could help us manage emails better, faster, and more efficiently. But only a few ideas have managed to be the talk of the town for as long as the idea of inbox zero. So to understand how to inbox zero, its founder Merlin Mann has a few basic ideas that he thinks are imperative for good email management. Here we also look at other email management tips which have been proven to work for all sorts of email users.

How to inbox zero as per Inbox zero Merlin Mann

how to inbox zero

There are many ways of achieving inbox zero but these are often marred by the question of whether inbox zero is possible or not. Merlin Mann has often come forward to clarify what inbox zero actually is. Here are five tips by Merlin Mann himself about how to inbox zero the right way. 

1. Assess your email productivity habits

How you manage your email productivity depends on the type of emails you get. Is your work email inbox full of personal emails? Then divert them to your personal email account to reduce the number of emails. Are there too many emails that are spam? Unsubscribing and deleting them is the way to go. Asking yourself similar questions can help you understand your email management habits better to improve email productivity. Thus having a better idea of your email needs and habits helps you find your way to know how to inbox zero. 

2. Use the 2 minute rule to know how to inbox zero

The 2 minute rule is all about asking yourself the question: Does it take less than 2 minutes to process this email? The answer to this question will determine your next course of action. If the answer is “Yes,” it’s best to reply right away, archive the message, and move on to the next email. Replying to those quick emails right away can save us ample time in the long run. If “No,” then put it on your to-do list, archive it and move on to the next email and thus through the entire email inbox to know how to inbox zero.

3. Write emails BETTER

Writing inefficient emails is yet another reason we have to deal with too many emails. In order to master your emails and know how to inbox zero, you must learn to write mindfully. 

  1. Firstly, clarify the intention of the email you are writing. Design your email accordingly, highlighting the most important point at the beginning of the email.
  2. Be clear about what you need from the recipient of the email.
  3. Make sure that your subject line is short but sums up the intention of the email.
  4. Keep the email as concise as possible, without skipping any important points. 

4. Consume emails sensibly 

Your email diet determines how you master your emails every day. Handling your inbox email management sensibly is the only way to tame your inbox.

  1. Use the 2-minute rule to decide your first course of action as soon as you receive an email.
  2. Prioritize how important an email is as compared to the task you have at hand. Manage your to-do list accordingly to know how to inbox zero.
  3. Flag emails that you need to take a look at later. Make sure the emails you have already dealt with are archived or deleted.

5. Remove the obvious to know how to inbox zero

What forms the major chunk of our emails? All sorts of spam and newsletters. Not deleting them right away is what ends us up in the dreaded hell of having too many emails. The huge number itself keeps us away from dealing with them. Removing this entire chunk lets us go past this fear and lets us focus on the emails that really matter.

To know which emails actually are useless and instantly deletable, you need a quick assessment. Some questions you need to answer to know how to inbox zero before deciding the fate of your subscriptions are:

  • How often do you open them?
  • If you do open them, how often do you actually read them?
  • If you do read them, how often do you then use them? (whether this means printing it out, sending it to a friend, referencing it in your work, saving it, and reading it again later)

5 easy tips to achieve inbox 0

Now that we know how to inbox zero using techniques by Merlin Mann, let us see some more email management tips. These tips can be used by anyone and everyone who wants to manage emails better.

1. Use the best email management software

Various gmail email management softwares for different purposes are now available. These form a prime foundation for your email management strategy. Tools like Mailmanhq, EmailAnalytics, Gmelius, etc are highly recommended for better email management. Email management softwares functions independently as an app different from your email software.

Amongst this Mailman is easily our top pick for gmail email management. It has all the qualities required for easy gmail email management. With features like Do Not Disturb, batch delivery, VIP lists, etc. make Mailmanhq the best email management software to know how to inbox zero.

2. Control the incoming emails to know how to inbox zero

We receive spam everyday. This may include newsletters and subscriptions- some of which might be actually important to you. These, though not work-related, do need your attention. But do you really read them? Or do they end up sitting in your inbox, too important to delete but not important enough to read? Some questions you need to answer before deciding the fate of your subscriptions to stay near inbox zero.

  • How often do you open them?
  • If you do open them, how often do you actually read them?
  • If you do read them, how often do you then use them? (whether this means printing it out, sending it to a friend, referencing it in your work, saving it and reading it again later)

These questions can help you decide whether you really need a particular subscription or you can do away with it. Email management tips like these can help you purge your email inbox as you understand how to inbox zero.

3. Don’t over organize and know how to inbox zero

Organizing one’s inbox into manageable folders is the easiest way to achieve gmail inbox zero. But there is such a thing as too much organization. Hence you must follow a step by step process to make sure that you do not over-organize as you know how to inbox zero. An example of a simple sorting system is noted here: 

  • Choosing the right categories
    Depending on the necessary response for an email, the folders could be ‘Respond later’, ‘In process’, ‘Respond immediately’. 
  • Choosing the course of action
    First, figure out for each email if you have to respond immediately, if you need to respond later, or if you don’t need to respond at all. Then, decide your plan of action. If you need to respond soon, put it in a folder labeled “Need to respond to” to maintain it near inbox zero.

    If you need to wait longer, send a short response letting the sender know you saw the message and will get back to him or her in X days. Then, file it in another folder labeled “In process.”
  • Keep up
    Make your email management easier by naming your folder with specific and clear names. Thus this makes them easily recognizable to sort your emails to stay near inbox zero.

4. Respond now or never

With so many emails needing our attention, it can be difficult to prioritize one’s response. But does this mean you must reply to all emails you receive to know how to inbox zero? No! By responding, we mean you need to not leave an email unattended. These responses could be:

  • Reply to the email if it will take you less than a minute, or requires no other action.
  • If it needs a quick action in order to reply to it, do it right away or star the email to pay attention to it at the earliest.
  • If the email will require a longer task to reply to, star it or move it to a ‘respond to later’ folder.

These responses make sure that no email is left untouched or unattended. Thus you are always up to date and stay near inbox zero, without compromising on your productivity.

5. Get on a schedule

The time you put into your making and maintaining a schedule is what affects an email management strategy the most. You must have pre-decided time periods cut out of your day to check into your inboxes. It is necessary to avoid checking your emails outside of these time windows to know how to inbox zero.

An email management software called Mailmanhq, makes its need felt here. It has a unique feature called Do Not Disturb which lets you set a particular time period when you do not wish to receive any email. Thus Mailmanhq makes sure that your inbox does not disturb you as your productivity increases. Thus Mailmanhq helps you on your way to knowing how to inbox zero.

Achieve inbox zero easily

The above tips for email management can go a long way in helping you know how to inbox zero. But one must remember to use this inbox zero tips regularly and consistently to achieve the best results and see their efforts fruit.


How do I get Inbox Zero in Gmail?

1. Categorize your emails as a preset
2. If an email involves a task that can be achieved in no time at all, just do it, archive the mail and move on.
3. Set a day’s time to respond to any email to make sure you don’t carry over more than is necessary.
4. Don’t be afraid to delegate.
5. Once you’ve got what you need out of an email, delete it.
6. Ask yourself how you would compose any given email if it were a text and make it a touch more formal.
7. Take 10 minutes to create templates for all of your recurring messages.
8. Pick a handful of designated times throughout the day to deal with email.

How do I zero my inbox in Outlook?

1. Schedule your email management habits well.
2. Fight the impulse to check your emails over and over.
3. Invest in a good email management tool like Mailman.
4. Use your tool and extensions cleverly.
5. Remain consistent in your email management efficiency.

What is the purpose of zero inbox?

The purpose of inbox zero is to help you stay away from getting distracted from emails and instead focus on important tasks.

How do I manage Outlook Inbox effectively?

1. Delete all unimportant emails- mainly newsletters and spam.
2. File your emails in different folders to handle them better.
3. Respond to emails that you can reply to under a minute immediately.
4. Set regular schedule to process your emails.