The pandemic has caused most of our work to shift to an online mode. Our inboxes, flooded with emails, be it work-based, or promotional, or from social media. It could be distressing to see a never-ending pile of unopened emails. Rather than adding to our productivity, which is supposedly the function of these emails, they consume our precious time away. This is where the concept of Inbox Zero, created by Merlin Mann, comes to our rescue.

What is Inbox Zero?

what is inbox zero

Inbox Zero intends to help you maintain your inbox clean or nearly empty, so you don’t have to worry about your emails. Inbox zero is an effective email management strategy. Merlin Mann introduced the concept of Inbox Zero. He is a productivity expert whose expertise is creativity, independence, and creating things that you love. As per Mann, the expression “zero” in inbox zero does not refer to the inbox’s number of messages. It means “how long it takes to use the inbox.” Inbox Zero’s goal is to motivate email users to decide where they opt to spend their energy consciously.

The basic concept of Inbox zero is quite simple. This email management strategy requires you to take quick action on everything, leaving nothing lingering in your inbox. It doesn’t imply you ought to finish every task or reply to each email that comes your way right away. Instead, the aim is to take some action on something to make progress. It is one of the best ways to manage emails.

In this article, we will discuss Inbox Zero, a plan for you to organize your emails. Through this plan, you can decide what works the best for yourself. Use this plan to ensure that you are not wasting your time and energy and get back to doing what you genuinely enjoy.

Is Inbox Zero Possible?

Yes! You can achieve the concept of Inbox Zero. Here in this article, we will share the tips to make this email management strategy possible. Here is an action plan for inbox zero:

  1. Delete

Ask yourself this question, ‘Is this mail important to me?’ If your answer is no, then delete the email right away. That will help you increase productivity at work.

 At times, this task could be daunting because what if you need that email later? The critical point here is that you complete the job right at the moment and avoid putting the task off to last – if you need to delete the email, do it right away and remove the clutter from your inbox. 

  1. Delegate

Are you the right person for this email? Or Is it possible that anyone else is better at this than you?

If the email or assignment requires another person’s input until you can proceed, ensure you assign it to the appropriate person. This is one of the best ways to manage too many emails.

People won’t have to wait for you to pass on details, and they’ll be able to get started on their work immediately to increase productivity.

  1. Respond

Is it possible for you to answer the email in less than two minutes? If yes, then do it! It is a wise choice to respond to an important mail immediately. 

However, you could keep all the emails aside that don’t need immediate attention. You can answer these emails in a specific time interval. If you provide the estimated timeline of when you will do the task, you are setting a deadline for yourself. This is one of the best time management techniques.

This deadline will motivate you to complete the job. Oh, in case the email is relevant, go back to step 1.

  1. Defer

Is this email going to take me longer than 2 minutes? If yes, then defer!

To defer the email means that you are putting the task in the email in your to-do list. This is done in cases when the work requires your attention but is not an immediate priority. But make sure that you do not ignore the task. This will help you to increase your productivity.

If you’re already in your inbox, you can sleep an email to have it show later when you have more time to deal with it. Optionally, you might change the due date of an assignment to achieve the same result.

  1. Do

Do the task now! If you can complete the job within 2 to 20 minutes, then complete the task right away. The important thing is to get your schedule clear. 

How to not overdo the inbox zero?

Mann gave the idea of inbox zero in 2007 when there was only one email. But right now, we have various categories of emails, promotional, social media DMs, personal emails, work emails. Things were a lot simpler back then.

The solution is to realize that inbox zero’s goal is to make you dissect the time on how you are spending your time in various inboxes. It’s no wonder that you’re stressing out if your focus is too stretched, thin as you’re constantly reacting to emails from all these different sites.

It would be best if you accepted that you could not do it all. Allow yourself to take the liberty to decide to prioritize emails and let go of the emails that are not that useful. 

“But do not use inbox zero as an excuse to not respond to emails.”

A study by Microsoft researchers found that ignoring emails is a telltale sign of a poor manager. It would help if you continued to prioritize the things in your inbox. 

Be Careful with the clean slate approach

It is tempting to wipe out the overflowing inbox, but that is a terrible idea. You can sort out a few email categories that you need to delete right away- social media notifications, promotional emails. But keep the essential documents.

To achieve Inbox Zero, Begin developing a strategy for determining what is necessary and what is not. There are several time management techniques to reduce the amount of time invested in email.

Mann recommends setting aside time thrice a day to keep up on your inbox. Few productivity experts advise against checking email first thing in the morning to concentrate on deep work tasks.

Remember, not every approach will work for everyone. You need to try out a combination of different methods to find your perfect Inbox Zero practice.


Inbox Zero is a tool for time management to increase productivity. When used wisely, it can save you from the hassle of going through an overflowing inbox. Here is a gist of the Inbox Zero approach:

  • Delegate a fixed time to check your emails.
  • Prioritize your emails.
  • Follow Delete → Delegate → Respond → Defer → Do.
  • Do not overdo Inbox zero (do not obsess over replying to every email), but respond to important emails.
  • Do not try to have a clean slate.