In this post I’m going to first clear up all the major questions I received from the original inbox zero tutorial then share a few best practices in 3 areas as they relate to inbox zero:
Let’s get started!
To be clear if you haven’t set up Inbox Zero yet, watch my tutorial first before coming back to this post.
First, you want to always start from the bottom email because of the auto-advance feature we enabled in settings.
Click into it, and just press “V”, to “Move to” since that combines label and archive together. Of course, for emails that you don’t need to take action on, you should still press “E” to archive and jump to the next email.
Once you have all the emails labeled, you should be un-labeling as you go through them.
Waiting - Remember these are the emails where you need to chase someone else to take action because your butt is on the the line, for example:
Read Through - If you need to reference them on a consistent basis, for me these are usually industry reports or instructional emails for a tool I use like once a month. Of course, these can be un-labeled when they’re no longer relevant.
To quickly recap, here’s the inbox zero workflow in a simple decision tree-style format:
Last but not least, when you archive an email, it is not deleted, it is simply “moved” to “All Mail” folder. When you search Gmail, it searches this folder automatically.
There are 3 types of labels you want to create if you adopt inbox zero:
First of all, go to Gmail settings, under the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab, create a new filter, has the words “filename:invite.ics” > Create Filter > Apply the Label “Calendar” if you don’t have it yet, simply click “New Label” > and write “Calendar”.
To take this a step further, you want to create another filter, has the words “filename:invite.ics AND accepted” > Create Filter > Mark as read, Archive, and apply the label “Calendar”.
This is a hack that takes advantage of one of Gmail’s advanced features, that if you add words after a plus sign after your username, Gmail will still recognize it’s an email meant for you. Let me explain 🤓:
What this does is the next time you write an email requesting information from someone else, in the bcc field, you can add “email@example.com” and that sent email will show up in your “Waiting” Panel on the right hand side to remind you to chase the other person.
And if all that is too complicated but you still want to take advantage of this feature, the next time you compose an email, you can simply click the 3 dots and label that email directly. Like this:
In your Gmail mobile app, you can first go into your “settings”, and for “Email swipe actions” I have Right swipe set to “Archive” and “Left swipe” set to “Move” which is essentially “Label and archive”.
To be honest, I don’t think responding to emails on mobile is very productive or efficient, I usually look at the emails that come in, decide if I want to archive them I will swipe right, or label them appropriately by swiping left, so they’re already organized by the time I get back to my laptop.
If you want to see your labeled emails, you need to click on the menu on the top left and click on any of the labels that show up.
Unfortunately, you cannot set up inbox zero from the Gmail mobile app, you have to set up everything using the web version first.
Check out my Top 7 Gmail Tips for Productivity video!