Do you want to get to inbox zero or at least close to it? This is how.
How's your inbox doing? Thousands of emails lining up and waiting for your response, or just a couple for you to deal with? The more inboxes I've seen the more I wonder how people sleep at night when they have thousands of emails waiting for an answer.
I usually have about 3 to 20 emails in my mailbox. I am by far not one of the super-hero-people who get to inbox zero every night. But I know so many people whose inbox is a source of guilt, so I've decided to explain how I keep organised: once I start using a service I am someone who usually sticks to the automatic settings but, there is one change I did to my Gmail that made a significant difference when tackling my inbox; I have my unread emails in the first section of my mailbox so I can see what I need to do at one glance.
I deal with every email I open and do so immediately. Once I have opened an email, I either delete it, decide not to answer at all or respond on the spot. If I cannot answer immediately, I mark the email as unread again. Seeing emails unread and knowing what that means forces me to delete all emails that I won't deal with in the future. Also, my responses are short; about three sentences, because I prefer to meet people face to face. Other than that, I of course don't want to add to people's guilt box.
If I get on a mailing list of people trying to sell me something, I ask to be taken off. I also unsubscribe from mailing lists I haven't signed up for to minimise the amount of emails I get.
Ok, let's summarise; delete what doesn't help you or make you happier, deal with everything immediately and don't write long e-letters, write actual letters because they're more appreciated. I promise!
If you're someone staring at thousands of emails, let's get rid of them! Say you want to have an empty inbox within two weeks; split the number of emails into a reasonable amount that you can deal with in one day. Then, cancel a date with your friend and instead schedule a date with your mailbox and a cup of coffee. Try to deal with the number of emails you decided on, and then do so again tomorrow and so on for the next two weeks. Make the amount digestible otherwise it will just overwhelm you.
PS: I do admire people who archive old emails into various folders. I also admire people who have a system to 'hacking' their mailbox as you can read in Andi's post.