Habit #6 for 2018: Zero Your Inbox and Feel Good Everyday

Is this you all day every day? Doesn’t have to be if you start a new 5–15min habit for 2018!

What is the oldest email in your inbox right now? If you are saying from over 6 months ago then chances are that over 99% of the emails in your inbox you probably don’t ever need again. I compare a messy inbox to having a messy room. No one ever see’s it but you know you want to clean it and it causes you stress all the time because you can never find anything when you need it! Then we get to the whole time factor. You spend extra time trying to sort through the mess, many times not even finding what you need. Seconds turn into minutes that turn into hours and possibly turn into days of wasted time each year by not being able to find that email you need.


This habit is super important to me because by clearing out my inbox it reduces my stress level EVERYDAY! Not by a little but by a lot. If you tried to respond or take action on every single email right when it came in then you’d lose a lot of time in productivity by always having to do that all throughout the day. If the email is important and time sensitive for the day then I just deal with it. But if it can wait and life won’t end then I just leave it to be dealt with later. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RESPOND TO EVERY EMAIL RIGHT AWAY. There is no law that requires this and you’ll never find anything in the employee handbook that says you have to do this. But if you spend 1 time block each day to move emails to folders, delete ones you will never need, flag the ones that require action, and then reply to the non urgent ones, this might only take you 5–15 minutes of your life depending on how much email you get per day. I like to leave emails in my inbox that I need to take action on. It might be a task or something I need to read again or maybe a link to an article that will benefit me. After I complete the action or task then I either delete it or file it. I only keep emails that I know that I might need to refer back to or something that has CYA (Cover Your Ass) value.

After this is done your endorphins kick in, you have a sense of accomplishment and you now know that whatever is left in your inbox is important and you need to take some kind of action. What I am after here is the following:

  • Being able to repeat the feeling of accomplishment 5–6 days a week vs 7 days a week of constant stress looking at my cluttered inbox.
  • My stress level being greatly reduced by knowing exactly what I need to do vs wondering what I need to do.
  • My ability to save a ton of time in my day and in my life by not having to sort through a mess and trying to find important emails every time.
  • Being more reliable by not missing or forgetting emails of importance. Someone might ask me for something important and I might forget to reply because my inbox is so cluttered that his/her request gets lost in the sea of emails. Do you know what I’m talking about???
  • Building the foundation of creating a good habit at the cost of 5–15 minutes a day of my life.

Now you are probably thinking, “I have over 1000 emails in my inbox!! It will take me hours and maybe even days to sort through all of them???” Like I said earlier, you probably don’t need 99% of them. So here is what you do. ARCHIVE ALL OF THEM (don’t delete them)! I promise you that you most likely won’t even miss them. It’s important that you archive these emails because you will be able to find them if absolutely necessary. If you delete them all most likely after 30 days they are gone forever. Every email program is different but most if not all email software these days have an archiving function. If you use Google Inbox archive is referred to as “Done”.

Now you are get to start with a fresh inbox in 2018 and then its up to you to choose a time in your day that you will always zero out your inbox. Try this for 30 days and let me know how you feel. If you are struggling with anything let me know and I’ll do my best to help you.

Mike Lord

This story is part of a 7 series post about developing good habits that will launch you in 2018. Follow me and my company, The Why Builder, on medium.

If you missed the first article you can read it here: My 30 Day Habit Challenge

About the Author Mike Lord