Inbox Zero Tactics

Was asked what my zero-inbox method is (from years of fine tuning).
Short story:
1. Auto-archive filter&label combo
2. Enable Send&Archive + Auto-advance to next email
3. Periodically archive those sticky unanswered emails at the bottom.

Detailed method below:

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Ah, you want to tackle ye old gmail beast…
Basically, the aim is to make your inbox a) personal and b) a to-do list. None of that ‘automated confirmation mail’ crap that you neither care about nor can do much with.

Here’s my list of tactics:

1. Filter filter filter.
The most useful filter/label combo I use is called ‘Automated mails’. Everything from Amazon to iTunes to any sort of email update/newsletter goes there. Filter actions are ‘archive (skip the inbox) and label ‘automated mails’. Also, I make sure to put all my labels ‘below the fold’ (the little ‘more’ in the left column in gmail). Avoids unnecessary distraction.
—This principle can be expanded to other labels like ‘Travel stuff’ (ryanair-type itinerary emails), etc.

2. Archive archive archive
a) Enable ‘Send&Archive’ in your gmail labs settings.
This is the 2n biggest tactic. Everything in your inbox, you answer and archive at once. Even if you expect a reply. Let that reply take care of coming back to your inbox. Your job is to archive everything out of sight.
b) Enable ‘Auto-advance’ in labs and set to ‘next email’. That lets me start at the bottom of my inbox, reply, jump to next, reply, just to next, archiving my way to the top. By the time you’re done, everything’s gone

3. Once you’ve got these 2 steps down, you’ll notice there’s a kind of ‘sediment’ of mails that just stick at the bottom. Stuff you don’t quite get around answering but don’t wanna archive out of sight yet. That’s okay for a while (sometimes you’re just busy), but if you see they just stay there forever, take a deep breath and archive them too. Trust in your ability to search and find them back should you one day wake up at 3 AM with an urge to answer them after all.

That’s pretty much it. Start with zero-tolerance filters (until you only get emails in your inbox from people you care about) and use the send&archive button till kingdom comes.

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