Either doing something right or things are falling through the cracks - weekly inbox Zero

I find myself reaching inbox zero about once a week. I do not have all of my emails in OF, though I have a few waiting for-follow-up emails. There are no tasks in OF that involve responding to an email, the point being I have not simply moved my email from the email client to OF.

I credit this relatively good state of affairs to a workflow that is, well, working for me. I also bulk process emails and have a lot of rules to eliminate spam. I also unsubscribe to anything that shows up in my inbox that I have not invited there. I don’t use Sanebox or any other service and I use the free Apple Mail client. I also think that part of this is due to the fact that I don’t permit long threaded conversations by my staff—I call them or have them call me, or we meet briefly, if we are at three email exchanges.

I did not clean up my inbox for this post. :slight_smile:


I’m a Superhuman user (education license), and I have absolutely no problem hitting Inbox Zero every day. I teach around 500 students in a semester, so I receive a lot of email, but thanks to the really well thought through implementation of keyboard shortcuts it takes me little time each day to process everything I receive.

It’s been 65 days since I missed Inbox Zero!


Well, that makes me seem like a small pike in comparison! :slight_smile:

I usually run between 0-5. Like you, I use the native Mail app and a simple system with four folders + archive and sent. The key for me is that those folders are all passive: Waiting, Support, Read, Set Aside. Read is mailing list and other stuff I might read if I feel like it. I use Set Aside sparingly, tying the message to a Reminder before filing it in there rather than processing to OF.

There is never anything hiding in those folders that need regular attention. I used to have an Action folder, but that was like when I used to “clean” my room by shoving stuff in the closet as a kid.

What sits in the Inbox is either stuff I will deal with today, stuff I have to process when I get back my Mac, or stuff I am putting off. For the latter, after staring at something for a a couple days and watching my Inbox move away from Zero, I will deal with it like a grown up.


I love your response. I found myself agreeing and laughing. :slight_smile:

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CMD+A, DEL. :grinning:

I rarely have zero, because I always have 5-10 mails (which need complex/long replies) lingering there for some days.


I consider 10 or less to be essentially inbox Zero. :slight_smile:


I also have very clear rules on email usage, so I’m not really that swamped by email. No need for SaneBox or Whatever.

I don’t see “Inbox Zero” as a goal I need to achive. If there are some emails waiting there, I’m OK with it. No benefit moving them to another folder or OF just to claim “zero”. They would just be in another queue.

I agree completely. The only emails that go to OF are delegated tasks that I tag for that person and follow-up during my 1:1 meeting or an email that becomes a task for a project or a project in and of itself. I don’t play the “email shuffle” game. :slight_smile:

Just some anecdotes on my email usage:

  • The astonished face of the colleague who used to cc: me in almost every mail (reinforce email by including boss in everything) when I told him I have a rule “if sent by x and I am in CC:, mark as read and move to archive”. cc-ing stopped, so I removed the rule
  • The QM colleague who told me “The QM system sends you reminders per email for open tasks daily”. Answer: the system is marked as Spam. :smiley:
  • The realization of colleagues that I don’t follow email “conversations” and the answer to a question might be found in “Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Re:Question?”.
  • I had a preformatted reply: “Is a topic for weekly meeting, won’t be discussed by mail”.
  • “If you cc: 20 people, you are disturbing 20 people!”
  • “If you write an email to 5 recipients, either all of them start solving the problem (energy wasted) or nobody will solve the problem. Be clear!”
  • And others.

Enforcing email discipline took a lot of effort, but it was worth it. My point: software, rules, etc. don’t solve the email flood, they just make it more bearable.


Well done, I wish I could convince the folks I work with that a quick call is worth 10 emails!

Indeed! I have one advantage, I’m the “boss.” :slight_smile: Well, except when I get home. :slight_smile:

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I always have 10 of so emails at a time that I’ve deferred because they’ll take a while, so not much difference. I set them as reminders, so I only see them when I’ve scheduled to deal with them in my calendar.

Most of my emails are less than 2 minutes so I do them immediately. I try and stick to GTD.

My company would implode. I’m sure our situations are very different, but I’d far rather wade through a giant email trail looking for useful information than suffer a time-sucking phone call that demands my scheduled (or, worse, immediate) attention.

In general phone calls are reserved for people I know won’t waste the time, or occasionally for people who seem incapable of reading.

Granted, if I was calling a lot of different people throughout the organization. I should’ve been more specific. I was referring to my senior leadership team members who report directly to me. Most other situations I am able to refer to them or others. And, when it’s from outside the organization if the person wants to start exchanging emails that are more than three threads long, I call them. I typically don’t ask, I just call … :slight_smile:

This doesn’t work 100% of the time but I would say it works at least 95% of the time and saves me a lot of typing and time. In many situations a phone call is much more efficient, at least, that has been my experience.

The phone is actually a marvelous invention. :slight_smile:

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@Bmosbacker I fully agree about phone usage. It cuts through a lot of the back and forth.

@Rob_Polding How is Superhuman different?

@evanfuchs What is the Support folder used for? I guess how is it different than your archive folder?

You did say “your staff” which is why I mentioned our different situations. I don’t have anyone reporting to me but there are a small cadre of people who I work with closely who would fit the same dynamic you have with your direct reports. With those people, it’s all Teams messaging for quick or long running stuff, phone calls to figure out stuff, and email only for communication of outcomes.

My bad. :grinning:

Support is short-term, quick access. Reservations, confirmations, references for upcoming meetings, etc. They go to archive when I’m done.

I archive A LOT. I’m a digital hoarder that way. So Archive is a big bucket of long-term storage for messages I don’t delete.

The main difference between Superhuman and other email clients is that everything is fully keyboard controlled, on Mac and iOS. Few modifier keys are used (only while typing emails), and you never need to touch the mouse. That makes processing much faster than any other app I’ve tried. It has snippets for iOS as well as MacOS, which I use for almost every email I send. It also does Sanebox style reorganization and processing, but I much prefer their implementation to Sanebox.

It’s designed as a gamification of email, written by game developers, and it makes dealing with mail much more fun. The bottom line for me is that it saves hours a week compared to others I’ve tried, and email no longer feels like a chore that I dread like it did for me on Apple Mail.

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