I saw a link recently on how to get to the ever elusive “Inbox Zero” and it seemed kinda lame–label everything “oldinbox” and archive everything in Gmail. Maybe that’s the only way to do it when you have 10K+ e-mails in your inbox, but it seems like the best way is to never get there to begin with.
Personally, I haven’t had more than 50 e-mail in my inbox at any given time in over 2 years. I ruthlessly archive and delete items and as soon as I’ve processed something into an action for “Things” I get it out of my inbox. For e-mails I just need to look at, reference or respond to, I use the stars feature, but I have only 8 starred items right now. I think at some point I had nearly 20… that’s about the max.
There are 3 very simple things you can do to stay at Inbox Zero:
- Use "Multiple Inboxes" - to keep things in front of you, use multiple inboxes (it's a Gmail Labs feature) and make your own version of the priority inbox.
- Use a catch-all and your own domain - I have a catch-all address getting checked by Gmail. I give out e-mail addresses to businesses like "firstname.lastname@example.org" that way and have all of the mail that comes in on that domain marked with the label "bulk" -- and I have a "bulk" inbox using "Multiple Inboxes"
- Add "Send and Archive" in labs - Now, everytime you respond to somebody, send and archive, don't just send. You're done. Never worry about it again.
Okay, now you know how to keep a simple and clean inbox. Go forth and do likewise.