3 Strategies for Tackling Your Inbox

Do you feel overwhelmed by your inbox? It’s a common issue in today’s world. Whenever you see a full inbox, even if many of the items in that inbox are clearly subscription-type emails and solicitations, it can be difficult to face the reality of going through everything.

It’s even worse when you know that you have a few “harder” emails to answer, or when there are personal issues to take care of. Instead of hiding from your inbox, here are 3 strategies to help you cut through digital clutter.

3 Strategies for Tackling Your Inbox


Yesterbox is a cool technique championed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. For the most part, he only answers yesterday’s email today. This means that he knows exactly how many emails he has to deal with each day.

Of course, there are times when you have urgent emails that need to be addressed immediately. When that is the case, it makes sense to answer quickly. However, most of the time you are fine if you answer the next day, rather than the day-of.

If you do decide that you need to answer some of today’s emails today, even if they aren’t urgent, you should make it a point to clear out all of yesterday’s emails first, or at least answer 10 of yesterday’s emails before moving on to today’s emails.

Inbox Zero

This strategy is about attempting to get your inbox to no emails by the end of the day. This can be a bit of a challenge, but there are ways to get to this point. The Inbox Zero mentality is about aggressively tackling your email when you can so that your inbox is mostly empty. Here are some tips for achieving Inbox Zero:

  • Get rid of emails when you have a few minutes: Anytime you have a little downtime, you get rid of the crappy emails. Standing in line at the grocery store? Get out your phone and immediately delete the promotions, ads, and subscription emails. Waiting on hold with customer service? Grab your laptop and get to work. You can usually identify the undesirable emails, and you don’t even need to open them. Just delete them.
  • Use labels: You can label certain emails, and then file them away for later. No, you haven’t taken care of them, but at least they aren’t in your inbox. The downside here is that you do have to carve out time at some point to get to them — and remember that you’ve labeled them and put them away.
  • Archive: Many people have cluttered inboxes because they keep important items in the inbox indefinitely. It makes for a daunting picture. Instead, archive the already-answered emails. You can search for them, and they won’t be there cluttering up your inbox.

Even if you don’t completely get down to Inbox Zero, you can still make good progress with these tips.

Set Aside Specific Email Answering Time

Make time to answer emails each day. Many people like to do it morning, lunch, and evening. Take care of the most pressing matters in the morning, when you are fresh and better able to cope. You can use lunch time and the evening to get through your inbox further. Devote 15 minutes to email three times a day (or twice a day, or whatever works) and you’ll be in a better position to get through what you have. Just as you devote undivided attention to other projects and obligations, you also need to dedicate time to the inbox. Stop multitasking and you’ll get through the inbox faster.

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