Reducing your inbox can streamline your digital life. Photo: Mashable
Reaching inbox zero is like the Holy Grail of a digital lifestyle. As the number of unread messages steadily increases, so does your unshakable feeling of spiralling down a never-ending tunnel of doom.
We know what you're thinking: there's no fix to this plague of an internet-infused existence. We're here to argue the contrary. Sorting though emails isn't rocket science, fortunately. All it takes is a commitment to maintaining order in your digital P.O. box.
We believe you can finally master your inbox and show that parentheses-surrounded number who's boss. It's time to say goodbye to inbox infinity and hello to inbox zero.
Because everyone's lives, habits and needs are different, there's no one-size-fits-all solution to inbox organisation. However, we've rounded up our very best tips for prioritising your emails and – we promise – achieving a more efficient and orderly workflow. In no time at all, your inbox will be a tiny skeleton of its heaving old self.
Follow our step-by-step guide for slashing through your inbox like a ninja.
1. Start zapping during downtime
Standing in line buying groceries, waiting for the train or daydreaming during meetings is the perfect time to start cutting the clutter from your inbox.
If you can't remember signing up for that hotel's promotional newsletter and have no interest in beauty product daily deals, simply swipe those emails out of your inbox and out of your life by unsubscribing.
Better yet, if you're ready to go cold turkey on the group mail, try Unroll.me, a service that lets you mass unsubscribe from the oodles of listserves arriving daily in your inbox.
2. Create labels with functions
Labels or folders can instantly cut the junk filling up your inbox. Emails that detail upcoming meetings, concerts or travel plans don't necessarily deserve valuable real estate in your inbox.
To ensure you don't forget your plans, though, add your upcoming lunches with clients or evening dinner dates to your calendar, and archive the reminder emails away. Create folders for "purchases", "events" and "travel", where you can store things such as flight confirmation emails, hotel reservations, concert tickets or purchased restaurant coupons.
When your calendar alerts you it's time for that movie night you bought tickets for months ago, simply search the film in your mailbox or open your "events" folder – voila! You didn't really need to store that receipt in your inbox for all those months, did you?
3. Your archive button is your best friend
As tempting as it is to mark everything "read", it's not the same as actually reading all your emails. That said, once you've read and replied to an email, get it out of your life for good.
If you're uneasy about deleting your messages forever into the depths of the interwebz, the archive feature is for you. Embrace it, love it, own it. Archived emails are forever searchable, but forever out of your face.
For many of us, the handful of emails lingering in our inboxes function as working to-do lists. You can slim down your inbox even further by adopting a to-do list app.
4. Open with caution
Confession: I don't read emails if I don't recognise the sender's name or don't see my name in the first two words of text, which I can preview before even opening the message. This helps me slash through messages sent en masse to a long list of people. This has rarely backfired – I'm only aware of one time I missed a personal message since adopting this technique years ago.
You'll save yourself loads of time by archiving, or even deleting, emails before you open them.
5. Lean on a trusty app
If you don't trust yourself to keep your inbox empty, a few apps can help do the trick – whether you're looking to reduce clutter, change your email flow or thoroughly cleanse your entire inbox.
- Mailbox: The Mailbox app lets you snooze non-urgent emails until a later time or date when you have time to tackle them head-on. You get rewarded with a Zen photo when you achieve inbox zero.
- Mailstrom: This service analyses the contents of your inbox to make sense of all of the noise. You'll quickly learn who sends you the most emails, whereupon you can delete messages from said senders or companies in one fell swoop.
- Taper: This cloud-based email service only lets you keep five emails in your inbox at once.
Do you have a brilliant tip we missed? Let us know in the comments.
Mashable is the largest independent news source covering digital culture, social media and technology.