With your engines revved up and wheels turning at full-speed from the momentum the New Year brings, it’s the perfect time to drive straight into your inbox and give it a quick and well-deserved scrub, rinse, and polish. Here’s how you can get your inbox closer to zero.

Before we get into that, let’s take a minute to uncover exactly what makes your inbox so cluttered and bloated. Yes, there’s spam—those emails that show up from mysterious senders you’ve never heard of. But most services like Outlook and Gmail already do a good job of filtering out the obvious ones. So where do the bulk of non-work-related emails come flooding in from?


Yes, graymail. You know, those newsletters, promotions, and other notifications that you actually opted into, but most likely forgot about. It seemed like a good idea at the time. You thought these emails would keep you in the loop and contain never-ending value. Or perhaps you simply glanced over the opt-out box when you signed up for that new service or membership. According to Hotmail, 75% of emails we consider spam are legitimate; we simply don’t want to receive them anymore.

Now these emails have spun out of control with their frequency, alerting you all day at work and taking over your inbox. Here’s how to clean them up.

 1. Create a graymail account

One of the simplest ways to keep your work email from being overloaded and distraction-free is to use a dummy account when you sign up for promotions and services you don’t necessarily want updates from. I use my yahoo account exclusively for this. I hardly ever log into it. But it is packed with spam…I mean, graymail, and it saves me from wasting time on opening emails I have absolutely no interest in. Of course, this means unsubscribing from all your current graymail, deleting the ones in your inbox, and using this account going forward.

2. Create filter rules

These are for the graymails you still want to read. You’d be hard-pressed to find an email service that doesn’t allow you to do this. It’s actually pretty easy. In fact, if you have a Gmail account, you know that Google has already done this by separating your Primary, Promotions, and Social emails into these corresponding folders/tabs. All you need to do is create a rule that basically says if you receive an email from “leavemealoneplease.com”, go ahead and put that email into a “Newsletters” folder or whatever name you want to give it.

3. Unsubscribe

Before you get into deleting emails, take an hour or so and scrub through your emails for the week to identify the ones you no longer want to receive. Locate that unsubscribe button. And hit it. It’s a good idea to keep track of each email sender/type you unsubscribe from, as to not duplicate your effort. Once you get a good chunk of them out of the way, move on to step 4.

4. Archive or delete it

I know it seems like a daunting task to delete or archive your old, unwanted emails, but it’s fairly easy. However, I would not recommend you spend too much time on this. More likely than not, the emails you don’t want are being sent from the same organization or person over and over again. One quick way get these out of the way is to find an email you want to delete or archive, copy the sender’s email address, do a search, then delete or archive them all at once. Even if you only do this a few times a day, you’ll lighten your inbox in next to no time.

5. Use a cloud-based collaboration platform for work

This one cleans up your work emails. Instead of you and your coworkers sending fragmented pieces of project information back and forth, along with several versions of the same document, this type of platform simply sends you alerts. When someone loads a new document and shares it with you, you get an alert. When someone starts a discussion around content, you get an alert. When someone makes revisions, you get an alert. The beautiful thing is that everything is all in one place and secure in the cloud—out of your inbox.

This blog is part of a series that illustrates the Power of Zero. Watch this space for upcoming articles on the incredible power zero can have on your organization.

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