11 ways to an unfussy inbox



Inbox zero. Zilch. Nada. Big fat goose egg.

This how I like my inbox. With no emails needing my attention.

I love email. I love reading emails, I love writing them. I love finding the right words to say something with care, and writing nasty emails then deleting them...just to get the angst out. Never send a nasty email!

Ryan's Gmail inbox at this moment: 175 unread emails.

175!!! It doesn't seem to stress him out though, so I guess it works for him. He also only reads probably 1 of every 10 emails I send him.

If I opened my inbox to 175 emails I'd promptly slam my laptop shut and run for the hills.

In other words, I'd totally lose my shit. 

Regardless of your email "type"; inbox zero, or inbox who the hell knows, here's some of my favorite tips to unfuss your inbox and get back to life, and have fun playing in your email sandbox.

These also go against most "conventional" email productivity advice. Screw em':


  1. Check your email when you want.  Many experts recommend checking once or twice a day. I like email. I enjoy the connection. Someone took the time to arrange some letters for me and send them along on the interwebs. Check email when it feels right for you. If checking once a day makes sense on the weekend, do it. 10 times a day during the week, go for it. If you're stressing about not looking at your email, you're missing the point.
  2. Respond when you want.  If you just got an email from Bradley Cooper asking you to escort him to his latest premier, sure, respond right away. For everything else that doesn't require an immediate response, take your time. Building a reputation as someone who responds to email right away will come back to haunt you. Flag emails that need responses and get to them when you can, or when you want to.
  3. Delete. Delete. Delete. If it doesn't require a response, for the love of wine and chocolate, and all things holy. Just delete it. You're not hurting anyone's feelings.
  4. File or delete. If I don't need an email right away, create an appropriate folder and file it. You may need to rename and organize folders from time to time. If you don't need it. delete it. If you need it, flag it. Once you've dealt with it, delete it. Embrace delete. Delete is your unfussy friend handing you a frosty margarita.
  5. Auto-reply is impersonal. If you check your email once or twice a day, setting up auto-reply letting writers know this is a nice thing to do, but not necessary. I don't like them because I find them impersonal and annoying. Oh, thanks for messing up my inbox zero. Just respond when you can and skip the auto reply. If you take a long time to respond, most people will assume you've got other stuff going on.
  6. Unroll.me. The greatest email tool ever for managing subscriptions ever.  I love reading the latest blog posts from my favorite bloggers, and checking the latest Southwest flight sale or Target coupons, but to be barraged with them ALL DAY LONG? Ain't nobody got time for that! Unroll Me sends ALL your newsletter subscriptions (you pick which ones) in one tidy little daily email so you can read them all at once.  Plus an easy unsubscribe button to manage all your opt-ins in one place. Easy unsubscribe? Yes, please.
  7. Be stingy with newsletter subscriptions. Unsubscribe from everything or don't look at them for a week. Go on a news diet. If what you're reading is not helpful, inspiring or informative, unsubscribe.
  8. Unsubscribe, please. When you unsubscribe, sometimes there's a text field to indicate why you're opting out. Don't be a jerk face. Say you love the emails, and will follow along on Facebook, you're just cutting down on emails. It will make someone's day better, I promise.
  9. Template that shit. If you find yourself typing the same thing over and over, create a template so you don't have to retype the whole thing. I like to save mine in Evernote.
  10. Walk away. If you've been slaving over an email for an irrational amount of time trying to find just the right words. Step away, have a snack, cut your toenails, take a walk (yes, in that order). You'll gain some much-needed clarity to finish that baby up with finesse and get on with your day.
  11. Quality counts. On project teams, I've been affectionately known as the quality guru. I say affectionately, but I really mean annoyingly. I secretly love it. Early in my career, a former boss once told me, "you're too good at too many things to be bad at this." Hello, wake up call. And hello quality control checklists and me annoying people with, "did you give this a self-review?". You are not incompetent for asking for a second set of eyes on an important email. Exactly the opposite. You get respect for caring enough.


What would you add to this list?