Just what is Inbox Zero and should you do it?


First, the big question…..what is inbox zero?

Inbox Zero is a term coined by productivity expert Merlin Mann. Originally about the amount of time your brain spends in your inbox, a lot of people now reference this as having zero emails sitting within your inbox.
Your inbox is a huge time sucker. There are multiple strategies floating around about how best to manage it. From only checking it a few times a day, using rules, filters, folders and colour coding, to making the most of tools that allow you to ‘pause’ it.
Inbox Zero has been around for a little while now and those that use it LOVE it but the thought had never crossed my mind to try and implement it. I was one of those highly organised people who had folders that controlled my inbox. One for every customer, every supplier, every kind of personal folder you could imagine. Basically I had folders for everything.
Which was great. My inbox only ever contained things that were in progress. 
But it was getting out of hand. My inbox was piling up, and trying to remember what to work on, what I needed to chase up, and then filing these things away afterwards was making me grind my teeth.
Then I had a light bulb moment. Every time I went looking for an email, I didn’t look to the folders. Instead I jumped to the search bar and used that. So why on earth was I spending all this time filing things, when I never used those folders again. 
So what did I do?

I started with Inbox Zero.

First to go, the filing folders. I now have four. Action, Done, Waiting, Receipts. 

Total. Game. Changer. 

As soon as an email comes in, it gets put into one of those folders.

It took a lot to let go of this system I had spent years setting up. My inner control freak had a meltdown. I tried searching for the most random things just to test the search function. And it didn’t let me down. The old folders are still there (as it is too time consuming to refile everything) but hidden away under Done and never to be used again.

This is how the new email schedule looks:

  • Email arrives
  • It’s checked – if it needs a reply and can be actioned in less than two minutes, then it’s dealt with then and there and moved to the Done folder
  • If it’s related to a client project, it’s moved to the Action folder
  • If it requires action but needs longer thought, it’s added as a task to ClickUp and then filed into the Done folder.
  • If it’s something I’ll need to access such as tickets to events, reservations etc then it gets put in the Waiting folder.


Four email folders. That’s it. I now feel freer, lighter, and know exactly where I’m at with everything. It takes me no more than 10 minutes to sort through my emails each morning (including the time to reply to the quick action ones). 

If you are thinking about giving it a go, I highly recommend it. Just make sure that before you go running into it headfirst, that your email software can provide reliable, quick search results. Search is your best friend with this method so you need to ensure that it is capable of providing you with the results that you need.

Have a different way of managing your inbox? I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to message me here!

Pip Meecham

Systems and Operations Specialist & Founder of ProjectBox