The Minimalist Inbox

1:25 pm | Business, Minimalism

There are a few things in my life that I have down to a fine art, and keeping my inbox zeroed is one of them. When I start my day off with a zeroed inbox, free from all the junk mail and with only a few email that need response highlighted I am calmer and more productive. This is especially for all my fellow work-from-home moms. Follow my easy steps below to get your inbox zeroed, and keep it that way!

Step 1: Start with a clean slate – zero your inbox!

Plan some time to attend to this today. Depending on your inbox crises, this may take between 30 minutes and 3 hours. It is time well spent, however. Follow my step by step plan below to zero your inbox.

Create a folder for each of the following:

  • – Accounts / bills to be paid
  • – Accounts / bills paid or you can simply call this folder TAX as this is all for tax purposes at financial year end
  • – Orders (tracking info, invoices and receipts all go in here unless it is placed in the tax folder)
  • – Correspondence (family newsletters, pen pal notes etc go in here)
  • – Add an individual folder per client and another folder called ‘potentials’ for any one off queries that you need to follow up on in future

Start with the very first email in your inbox, as you look at it, ask yourself;

  • – is this important? If not, delete it, be brutal.
  • – is this spam? In other words, is it unsolicited email? If it is, mark it as such! This will prevent this sender from ending up in your email inbox again.
  • – If you signed up to the senders email at some point but NEVER read their emails, unsubscribe from their mailing list, now – be brutal! And delete the email. You can also use the service to do this as a bulk action.
  • – If the email is not important but you want to file it to read later, create a ‘read later’ folder and file it away. This folder can be your go-to folder when you have a few minutes while putting the kids down to sleep and want to catch up with your favourite newsletters
  • – What to do if the email is important:
    • * If the email contains a task you need to action on and it will take less than 2 minutes, do it now and file the email away.
    • * If the email contains a task you need to action on, and it will take longer than 2 minutes but needs to be done today – add the task to your planner and leave the email in your inbox (highlight it with a coloured star if you like)
    • * If the email contains a task you need to action on, but you won’t be doing it today – add the task to your planner and file the email away. You can highlight it with a different coloured star if you like.
    • * If the email contains important info, but you cannot action the task as you are waiting on more info – add a follow up note to your planner for tomorrow and file the email away. Highlight it with a third colour star.


Copy the senders email address and search your inbox for ALL mail from that sender and do the same for all those email as a bulk action. So, for instance, if your first email that you are dealing with was from a random mailing list that you subscribed to 3 years ago but you never read their emails, search for the sender and highlight all and MOVE TO TRASH!

You can also search for all email before a certain date. So, for instance, anything older than 1 year. Simply enter before: 2016/05/01 (or any date you like) in the search box to bring up all mail that arrived before May 2016, select all conversations and then click the delete button. This is a particularly good step to take if your gmail inbox is low on space and you are sitting with over 15000 unread mail in your inbox. ou could, however, lose important information so take this into consideration.

Continue to the next email in your inbox and follow the same steps as above until your inbox is empty!

Step 2: Keep it Zeroed!

First of all, do not open your email inbox first thing in the morning!

It used to be a bad habit of mine to check my emails first thing as I opened my eyes and checked my phone. It immediately put me into response mode and the entire morning was spent thinking about all the tasks sitting in that inbox and how I need to get to them.

Lately, I try and start my mornings by listening to a meditation. If I have time alone before my toddler wakes up, I also try and get some journaling in, and I write out a bunch of affirmations. When I start my days like this, I find the rest of the day runs more smoothly and I can cope with all the tasks piled up with a clearer mind.

As an aside, if you are looking to bring more self nourishment into your morning routine, Victoria Smith of The Mojo Lab has a free ebook called ‘The Mojo Lab’s Guide to Your Magical Morning’

When you first sit down at your desk in the mornings take a few minutes to plan your day.

First, write down all the tasks in your daily planner that you know off-hand needs to be done today. Then, open your inbox and sort emails as follows;

  • – scan through the contents and unsubscribe from any mailing lists you no longer need to be signed up for
  • – Archive or trash every item that is unimportant and you are not intending to read this morning
  • – Move trivial newsletter that you do want to read later to your ‘read later’ folder
  • – Mark blatant spam items as SPAM to prevent them ending up in your inbox again
  • – Open important emails and scan them for any to-do’s. If the tasks can be completed in under 5 minutes, do it immediately and file away the email.
  • – If the tasks require more than 5 minutes but can be done today, add them to your daily planner and leave the emails in your inbox but mark them with a colour star – all the same colour, I use the first one in the gmail set which is orange.
  • – If the task cannot be completed today, or you are still waiting on more information from a client, or something from a designer etc, add a note to follow up in your planner for the following day and file the email away in its folder.


Do this every day, and you are on your way to having a more organized, less stressful day already!

Christine Powell

Christine Powell

Book lover • Homeschool mom • Tea drinker • Wordpress Website designer & Virtual Assistant