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Inbox Zero: How to Achieve This Zen State


You have got mail!’

Once upon a time, this simple line used to fill us with excitement and anticipation. The internet was young and the concept of almost real time communication was a huge paradigm shift from the days of the snail mail.

Well, fast forward to 2015 and the scenario has turned on its head. Now we struggle to stay afloat as more than a hundred e-mails bombard our inboxes every day.

In 2002 productivity and action management czar David Allen set forth his trusted, reliable system of dealing with the staggering number of commitments crowding our schedule. Based on his advice and his 5 stage workflow we can actually wrest back control from the email monster and ‘Get Things Done’ despite our busy digital lifestyle! What makes this feat possible you ask? It is the practice of ‘Inbox Zero’.

What Inbox Zero Actually Means:

GTD® enthusiasts have different takes on Inbox Zero! Just visit any forum and the debates will reveal the lack of consensus. A common misconception around this practice is assuming that ‘an empty inbox is one that no longer has any open issues to resolve and thus doesn’t take up our mental space.’ Not correct!

According to David Allen, Inbox Zero refers to an empty or nearly empty inbox from which all the emails have been deleted, sorted or archived because they have been properly tagged as:

  • Action items to be executed later on
  • Information to be referenced when needed
  • Important correspondences to be followed or participated in

To reduce clutter and free you from the tyranny of constantly checking your mail!

Practising Inbox Zero:

Inbox Zero as a concept is very easy to understand and execute. It is a mail management super-star for both the busy CEO and the proactive college student.

At Calm Achiever, every member of the team has in place an Inbox Zero workflow in some form.

Based on first-hand experience we have curated some of the best resources from around the web to help you get started and truly understand the implications of having an ‘organized and under control’ inbox.


A small but powerful application, Mailstrom works to put your inbox on a diet. It analyses your pending correspondences by reading the email subject lines and meta-data and presents the findings comprehensively in the form of a dashboard. You can peruse groups of related emails and take conclusive action on them, unsubscribing, deleting or archiving with the click of a button. Mailstrom is a simple take on the concept of Inbox Zero and is ideal for personal email accounts which do not handle project data.


IQTELL is a lot more nuanced and actually gives users the option to add messages to projects, create to-do action items from email lists and a lot more. It understands the basic essence of GTD and Inbox Zero and equips you with the power to really process and organize your inbox instead of just emptying it.

Inbox Pause

This little plug-in adds a ‘Pause’ button to your Gmail inbox allowing you the freedom to work on your pending mails, processing them with the GTD system to inch towards Inbox Zero. When your inbox is ‘paused’, the incoming emails are stored in a special folder and are made visible only when Gmail is returned to normal. Want to learn why Inbox Pause is wonderful? Read this blog post.

Inbox Zero for Gmail

This post by Andreas Klinger is widely considered to be the best manual step by step system to bring a Gmail inbox to the zero state without using any additional plugins. Andreas makes excellent use of the existing Gmail features like folders and filters with customized ‘stars’ and ‘bangs’ to sort mail on the basis of the kind of action needed to ensure proper processing. A blog rich with screenshots and pro tips, Gmail users around the world swear by its effectiveness.

Inbox Zero for Outlook

Even though Gmail is fairly ubiquitous, many companies still stick to the rather clunky interface of Outlook. This hackerSpace post is a spin on Andreas’ work and takes you through the system needed to ensure an Inbox Zero for Outlook users.

Tips worth keeping in mind

GTD Coach Kelly Forrester gets together with Inbox Zero evangelists who have achieved and maintained the feat of a clutter free email account to bring you 9 practical tips you will use every day. From tried and tested advice about structuring the actual system to get your inbox to zero, to pick me up encouragement if you fall off the band-wagon, this blog is a must read for you if you are serious about slaying the mail monster.

Your take on Inbox Zero:

The aim of Calm Achiever is to help you understand, internalize and then make a part of your life unique productivity principles which are intuitive, simple and result oriented. The best way to achieve our goal and provide you with maximum value is to spark conversation and build a community around our cause.

What did you think of Inbox Zero? Have you ever tried some form of mail management before? Are you an Inbox Zero warrior looking for advanced strategies? What about the so-said flipside to the Inbox Zero method which many feel is simply replacing an obsession with reading emails to organizing them!

Hit ‘reply’ and let us know your concerns. Or head over to our Facebook page and connect with an eclectic group of individuals looking to get more done!

Parting Goodies:  

Love Inbox Zero? Want to show your passion for it? Claim your Nerd Merit Badge for keeping a clutter free inbox from Monday through to Friday!

Want more Inbox Zero tips and tricks? However some from David Allen himself? Click here to download a short but information stuffed PDF that will further refine and guide your approach to reaching an inbox with no pending items or to-dos in it!!

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