Inbox Zero in a nutshell means that at the end of the day that every message in your email inbox that was important was attended to, and then deleted or moved to an archive folder.
If check your email fairly regularly during the day, either from your PC, work computer or smartphone, you can use your email as a simple task reminder; how it’s done is very easy.
Step 1: Whenever you have a to-do that needs to get done, write and send an email to yourself. You probably don’t even need to put anything in the body of the message and just use the subject line to list the task that needs to get done.
Step 2: When that task gets completed, delete the email.
That’s it. No need to mess around with a calendar/scheduler app or put the task listing elsewhere where you’ll probably forget about it. Just email yourself and it works great.
Important: This only works if you routinely keep your inbox “clean”.
If you have a whole bunch of messages in your inbox right now and just leave them there, then the Inbox Zero method won’t work for you. Before you start emailing yourself task reminders to do things, you will have to move all your mail into another folder first.
In Gmail this is easy because there is the “Archive” feature, but in other mail systems like Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, you’ll have to create a folder first, then move all your mail there. Fortunately this is very easy.
Create a folder called Saved or Archived, then just mass-select all your old mail and move it there, unless…
…you have several thousands of emails in your inbox. If that’s the case, chances are you won’t be able to move all your mail all at once. If you try it, the webmail system will most likely get “hung up” and/or may spit back an error at you.
The best course of action to take here is to only move a maximum of 500 to 1,000 messages at a time to your Saved/Archived folder. If you’re unable to do that easily, here’s a workaround for webmail systems that list messages “by page” (which is pretty much all of them):
1. In the inbox, highlight the message at the top of the list by taking your mouse and putting a check in its checkbox. Don’t open the email. Just select it so it’s checked.
2. Press the PageDown (sometimes labeled as Pg Dn) key on your keyboard 5 times SLOWLY. Count one second between each page while doing this. Press PageDown and say “one-one thousand”, then PageDown again and say “two-one thousand”, etc. The reason you have to do this slowly is because the webmail system will poll the messages for each page of emails viewed and it takes a second before all the subject lines show up. If you press PageDown too fast, the webmail system will get “hung up”. This happens regardless of which webmail system you use.
3. Press and hold SHIFT.
4. Single-left-click the last message at the bottom of the current page of emails you’re viewing, then let go of SHIFT.
At this point you should have 5 full pages of emails selected.
5. Choose the webmail function to move the messages to your Saved/Archived folder. Above your message list should be a way to move your mail. In Hotmail for example, there is the clickable option “Move To”. In Yahoo! Mail there’s a “move to folder” icon (it’s right next to the “Spam” button). Use that to move your mail to your Saved/Archived folder. Note: Don’t try to drag the messages to the folder directly. When you have that many messages selected, a move command usually doesn’t work, hence why the button method is recommended.
Repeat steps 1 through 5 until your inbox is cleared, and then you’re ready to try the Inbox Zero method since your inbox is a “blank slate” and ready to go.
I do understand for some of you it make take time to clear the inbox out and get all your mail into the Saved/Archived folder, but believe me it’s worth it – if for no other reason than to make your email more manageable.
The PCMech.com weekly newsletter has been running strong for over 8 years. Sign up to get tech news, updates and exclusive content - right in your inbox. Also get (several) free gifts.