Yes, you can achieve Inbox Zero, that magical moment when your inbox has no emails.
For many, realizing this goal is like searching for the Fountain of Youth: difficult, hopeless, and even impossible. When it comes to correspondence, there may be no greater personal accomplishment than Inbox Zero.
But, speaking from experience, we have both achieved Inbox Zero many times, and in general, our email inboxes remain uncluttered and lean.
When you keep your inbox clean and tidy, you will likely feel more organized and less stressed. Here are three tips on how to achieve Inbox Zero.
1. File your emails into folders
Try not to think of your inbox as a Twitter feed of messages. When you receive an email, the first question you should probably ask yourself is, “Does it require a response?” But the second question you should consider is, “Where does it belong?” Then file the email into the appropriate folder.
For example, you could have folders like these: Personal, Finances, Taxes, Social, Side Hustle, Kids, Miscellaneous, Need-To-Reply, Urgent. When you’ve decided on your folder structure, then it’s a matter of sorting your emails into the right area.
After a while, your inbox will have fewer emails, your chances of reaching Inbox Zero will go up, and your stress levels will likely drop.
2. Set rules for your emails
Most email services allow you to set rules for how to handle email. For example, if you get a lot of emails from Amazon, you can have these automatically sorted into a folder called “Amazon.” You can also make sure that group emails are immediately put into non-inbox folders. Pretty soon your inbox will have less SPAM and more messages from people who are directly writing just you.
You can also make sure that emails from friends, family, certain colleagues, or managers are highlighted in bright colors so that they get your attention. Using this approach, you will find fewer unnecessary emails in your inbox, and the right ones will be easier to find and act on.
3. Respond to emails immediately
Instead of waiting to respond to an email, just respond immediately with an acknowledgement: “Ok,” “Got it,” “On it,” “Thanks,” or “Noted.” It is courteous, and it also buys you time. Plus, it might even get you out of sending a longer response.
After you’ve acknowledged the email, you can file it into another folder, archive the message, or delete it entirely. When you send prompt responses, you will earn the reputation of being proactive and responsive. And, in turn, you will start to see emails in your inbox disappear, getting you closer to achieving Inbox Zero.
Commentary by Deepak Chopra and Kabir Sehgal
Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times best-selling author. He is a former vice president at JPMorgan Chase, multi-Grammy Award winner and U.S. Navy veteran. Chopra and Sehgal are the co-creators of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, inspired by American immigrants.