Inbox Zero – Part III

♫  Nothing, now you live with zero, nothing nada
Now you live with zero
Now you live with zero…

Music and lyrics by Keyshia Cole, Vidal Davis, Tyler Williams, Guordan Banks, Jessyca Wilson, Robert Williams, recorded by Keyshia Cole.

avalanche 1


This post continues our journey towards achieving ‘inbox zero’.  This time we are delving into more shall we say, ‘drastic’ ways of dealing with the email avalanche.

  • Step 1: Admit it.  You are not going to get to those emails that are 2 years old and still sitting in your inbox.  In fact if you are facing brass tacks, you are most probably not going to get to those that are a month old either.  So what to do?  Create a folder called ‘old emails’ and move all those that are at least 3 weeks or a month old into it.  Scan the newer ones before doing this to ensure that you are not missing something important first!  But by moving the emails out of the inbox into an old email folder you are taking the first step in acknowledging that you are (most probably) never going to deal with these (and they are most likely hopelessly outdated anyway).
  • Step 2: Go thru the ones that are left.  Delete those that you can.  Create a new folder “Reading” for those that are informational but don’t require any response from you.  Move all such emails into the “Reading” folder.
  • Step 3:  Start using Categories in Outlook  ().  Categories are completely customizable so you can take the standard list and edit them as you wish.  I like to create “Urgent”, “Follow Up” (for those that need to be dealt with but are not urgent), “Networking” and “Personal” but you can create such categories as you wish.  By using the “Edit” command in Categories you can assign colours to each of the categories so that, for example, “Urgent” is red and “Personal” is blue.
  • Step 4: Turn off the new email notification.  Remember Psych 101 and Pavlov and his dog?  He demonstrated ‘Classical Conditioning‘.  We don’t need to be slaves who jump the moment the incoming email message appears or dings!  Work on email when you can fit it into your day.
  • Step 5: Take emails that will need extended time to deal with and create appointments in your calendar to deal with them.  Most email programs will allow you to ‘drag and drop’ an email into your calendar and create an appointment based on the email.  If not, you can always ‘block and copy’ the text in the email and insert it into a calendar appointment and move the original email out of your inbox. This way you have committed time to work on these bigger emails.

In our next instalment we will continue with further tips on how to clean up the email avalanche and get you closer to living with zero.

-David J. Bilinsky, Vancouver.


  1. Hi David,

    Always nice to hear how others are dealing with the avalanche, or worse… 2 years of avalanches!

    I’m a huge fan of inbox zero and have been trying to refine my art for awhile. While I’m on a different platform than you (gmail vs outlook), I wonder if any of my tips might be helpful and likewise, will follow your next post to see what I can learn. Here’s my best:


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