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Inbox Zero Challenge Day 2: Process for 30 Minutes

By | 187 comments


Challenge #2: Process email for a maximum of 30 minutes

In yesterday’s challenge, we helped you set up your archive folder* and archive your emails . Your archive folder is the (searchable) place you store your email messages once you are done processing them.

What is processing?

The word processing is a bit mechanical. I get the image of a factory assembly line when I hear the word.

assembly line

I don’t think the word is too far off the mark.

Processing your inbox is often a mechanical job. You are there to route information to the right places like an intelligent (we hope) sorting machine.

Mail sorter

This type of work is often of lower value to you and your organization. Your time is better spent on creative problem-solving tasks (or resting or recreating or reflecting or reading or in your relationships or pretty much anything else… even things that don’t start with the letter r).

The word processing is Getting Things Done speak for determining what needs to be done with the information. If the information is actionable, the action will be either:

  • done
  • delegated
  • deferred

If the information is not actionable, you’ll either:

  • trash it
  • incubate it
  • store it in your reference folder

Today, we’re going to show you how to process your emails efficiently so you can start filling your archive folder with those “done” messages and get closer to inbox zero.

One of the things that can make processing your inbox tough is not knowing where to put everything. What you do with an email is determined by its content.

Where to sort your email.

Here are the five most common places for your processed emails:

  1. Quick reply – if the email needs a response and you can do it quickly (less than 2-minutes), go ahead and reply. Once you’re done, archive the message and do a happy dance – you’re one step closer to inbox zero!
  2. Put it on your to-do list – sometimes you’ll get an email that creates more work for you (i.e. an email from your boss asking you do something). When this happens, you don’t want to completely stop what you’re doing but you also don’t want to forget about it either. The best thing to do in this case is to write it down on your to-do list (i.e. “Follow up with Thanh to figure out the podcast schedule for next month”). You can use a digital task manager like OmniFocus, but even a paper to-do list will work.
  3. Put it on your calendar – if the email is an invitation to be at a particular place at a particular time it should go on your calendar. It’s also a good idea to pull out any useful information that will allow you to be fully prepared for the meeting or event. This can be done by putting notes in the description field or adding an attachment to the event.
  4. Store it for later – if the email contains information you want to hang on to (i.e. login account credentials, attachments you want to save, etc.) then you should put it in a reference folder. The best digital reference folder we’ve found is Evernote because it’s free and allows you to search and find things quickly and easily, but you could also print things off and store them in a filing cabinet if you’re old school.
  5. Trash it – a lot of the email we receive belongs here. If you receive an email that doesn’t elicit one of the previous three responses, you probably don’t need it and you can delete it.

The Takeaway

Even if you have hundreds of unread messages in your inbox, it’s important that you start small. As your Day 2 Challenge, process your inbox for 30-minutes.

Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Set a timer. The goal is to get in the habit of quickly identifying and deciding what to do with the emails still left in your inbox.

Once you get into the rhythm, you’ll start to know where all your emails should go in seconds. This processing skill is the key to Escaping Your Inbox.

Let us know in the comments how it went!

More Email Tips

If you want more tips and hacks for dealing with email, make sure you subscribe for updates on the Escape Your Email. We have an email system that allows you to spend only 30 minutes a day on email. Sign up here and we’ll let you know when it’s available.

*If you are a Gmail user, this archive folder is built in.

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Posted by barb  | September 8, 2016 at 4:45AM | Reply

Timer is a good idea to keep me focused.

Posted by Michael  | September 7, 2016 at 9:40PM | Reply

I’m a visual person. Started using a physical 30 minute hourglass; almost like a pomodoro session.

Posted by access2pam  | September 7, 2016 at 7:39PM | Reply

Done. :-)

Posted by Deborah  | September 7, 2016 at 3:38PM | Reply

Worked well.

Posted by Erica  | September 7, 2016 at 11:47AM | Reply

I’m really trying to “stay out of my inbox” — which means that dedicating time to email slips to the bottom of the list – I’d like to drive my life rather than all those who make requests. The majority of my 300+ messages in my box are things that need action. It is precisely here that I get stuck. 30 minutes will get me paying attention to the low priority urgent items rather than processing the things I already believed to be important when I GOT there… but it’s so easy to get caught in “I can take care of that real quick”… FAIL today (Tuesday).

Posted by Jon  | September 7, 2016 at 10:09AM | Reply

Done! This was not hard after Day #1. I’m by no means done, but the day 1 activities were a huge weight off my shoulders and allowed me to do this

Posted by Eric  | September 7, 2016 at 2:10AM | Reply

Done! Inbox, already empty!

Posted by Ryan  | September 6, 2016 at 11:28PM | Reply

This is a great idea, and I look forward to doing it. However, it means I already have to have a project manager or task manager in place. If I don’t have that, then I am just moving the email to a tool that I don’t already use (thus creating more stress and confusion as to when or even if I will take action on that email ). The fear is that I will move this email to Omnifocus or some other task manager, but then it will get lost since I am not used to using a task manager, lol. I currently use my email inbox as my task manager, which I know you do not recommend. What do you suggest for someone that does not already have this incredibly important tool already in place? (implementing a task manager into one’s daily routine is not easy).

Posted by Maria  | September 6, 2016 at 10:47PM | Reply

I have to admit, I got distracted will looking at some of the messages–following the links… I still managed to bring one of my inboxes down to 6 messages and the other to 31. I am amazed how many e-mails I just put in trash… Most of my e-mails are references anyway… At least at this time… I still have to tackle my work e-mail, full of messages waiting to be deleted. I just need another 30 minutes…

Posted by Brittany Joiner  | September 6, 2016 at 9:22PM | Reply

Love those tips! Found it really helpful – I especially like the two minute rule. Most of the time, I can deal with an email in less than two minutes, but those are the ones that I leave sitting around in my inbox.

Posted by Diane  | September 6, 2016 at 8:44PM | Reply

Some days are definitely easier than others to process email. When I see an email that I have to look at more than once, it tells me that I have a problem with it that needs to be resolved before I can continue. Otherwise I can easily process every email in my inbox in minutes b

Posted by Mike  | September 6, 2016 at 6:52PM | Reply

Another good day! Thanks for the tips they make this easy.

Posted by Melissa  | September 6, 2016 at 5:38PM | Reply

I’ve been keeping up with it so it took maybe 2 minutes!

Posted by Mary Benson  | September 6, 2016 at 2:50PM | Reply

I agree–spending 30 minutes of time is tough to do. I found myself seeing a message, searching for all messages from that person so I could archive in bulk. I need to transfer over to Thunderbird so I can sort instead of search.

Posted by Monika Grasley  | September 6, 2016 at 12:11PM | Reply

Could you post the macro? I have been looking for a way to send e mail shortcuts to OF – thank you

Posted by Peter Sacréas  | September 6, 2016 at 12:01PM | Reply


The “Dispatch app” for iOS is a great tool for this. In OS X it is a little “trickier” to do this. I still didn’t find the right app for OS X that can be combined with the things I do in iOS and Omnifocus

Posted by Craig  | September 6, 2016 at 11:51AM | Reply

All processed and have a “zero inbox” for the second day in a row!!!!

Posted by Hema  | September 6, 2016 at 11:23AM | Reply


Posted by Katie  | September 6, 2016 at 11:06AM | Reply

Done! Now I just need to schedule time to go through the to do list created by the email. Being home with 2 kids can make that challenging.

Posted by Carolyn  | April 1, 2016 at 3:47AM | Reply

I struggled to keep this to 30 minutes!

Posted by Anne  | March 31, 2016 at 3:38PM | Reply

Day 2 done belatedly on Day 4! One of the things I realized is that my schedule is so packed with higher priority projects that even 30 minutes of focused attention on my email is sometimes not possible. That’s why I end up scanning through them, responding to what’s urgent, and then leaving the rest for another day.

Posted by Caroline  | March 31, 2016 at 2:23PM | Reply

Day 2 – complete. I deleted more than 400 emails!

Posted by Rick  | March 31, 2016 at 1:33PM | Reply

Using the Vitamin-R Pomodoro timer to monitor the 30 minutes. Helps me stay strict to the 30 minutes.

Posted by Chris  | March 31, 2016 at 8:26AM | Reply

Took awhile but done.

Posted by Jason S  | March 30, 2016 at 11:49PM | Reply

Day 3: I’ve been a lot of this recently. the new AirMail app (iPhone, currently beta testing on iPad) has a handy Unsubscribe action that even does the background browser unsubscribe button for you. Just killed off a further 6 subscriptions though. Great one!

Posted by Jason S  | March 30, 2016 at 10:42PM | Reply

I stretched and did about 45min sessions but a great practice. The temptation to reach for that email notification any other time throughout the day is strong though, I try to limit those to quick archive/delete and leave to rest for my ‘session’.

The best takeaway from today though was #3 and is the reason I have the most pile up. I simply don’t have the time to decide what to do with these regularly and I’m not keen on Evernote.

Solutions I’m considering:

1. Making a dedicated label/folder called Reference (would have to replicate on 8 different accounts though).
2. Was just trying out some ways to maybe send to Notes app but the ‘Send to..’ so far only saves a link back to the email (might be good if you just archive it as well). Might look into creating a Service or Applescript to save contents or selection and add to a Note.
4. Maybe some other Service that saves it automatically to a new note in NVAlt (Mac) or Editorial (iOS), either way ending up in my Dropbox Text folder.
3. Print and and save a PDF

Posted by Kim  | March 30, 2016 at 3:33PM | Reply

Very helpful. Always looking for new ways to tackle email. =)

Posted by Bob DeSilets  | March 30, 2016 at 2:39PM | Reply

I’ve been doing this sporadically, so it’s nice to have to hold myself accountable. Done processing 30 min on work email, and 30 min in Gmail!

Posted by Katie  | March 30, 2016 at 2:08PM | Reply

Done. Though instead of storing for later, I’m using the Pin feature in Inbox because I can attach a note to my pin. My inbox might not be zero, but I can quickly tell what is saved for later and what must be dealt with now.

Posted by Neil MacLennan  | March 30, 2016 at 1:51PM | Reply

Done 30 minutes. Still more emails to get through, but am making progress :-)

Posted by Robby  | March 30, 2016 at 11:03AM | Reply

I I’ve the two minute rule for email and the GTD method of: do, delegate, defer. I send messages to Nozbe to delegate and defer them. Also, the Evernote web clipper works great with Gmail for saving reference material. Add a reminder and time, and I don’t have to think about it.

Posted by Taylor Lawson  | March 30, 2016 at 10:27AM | Reply

Done! I managed to finish in 25 min.

Posted by Jocelynn M Mosley  | March 30, 2016 at 10:09AM | Reply

For once it only took me 20 minutes to go through my emails and I didn’t feel overwhelmed.

Posted by APW  | March 30, 2016 at 10:07AM | Reply

30 minutes of processing! Done (forgot to post yesterday) I am all in!

Posted by Amit Taneja  | March 30, 2016 at 10:07AM | Reply

I use my Inbox as a “To Do” – I send myself “To Dos too”
I would count myself as successful if there are
1. No stale threads (Threads that I should have followed up on but have forgotten about)
2. I have ETAs on all followup items
3. Not more than 100 threads

I am a big fan of Outlook Category. (I stopped using folders within folders as I lost emails). I also do not use auto filters to move mail to Folders as I believe every email that lands in my Inbox was meant to be there (I am ruthless about keeping my Newsletter subscription in my office Inbox to a minimum – right now it is just Asian efficiency). I use an outlook app called “Categorize Plus” and the things I do when I get an email is:
1. “Categories it”
2. Process one Category at a time (by using Search Folders) to avoid context switching – Either “Trash/Archive it”. I am not very good with immediate delegation – working on that part.
Within each search folder I sort by conversation and received to go through emails.

My office email is Active exchange sync email with Airwatch, which means I am unable to download my office emails on Android/IOs Outlook App (Motorola G3 phone, iPhone) which allows a conversation view. Besides IPhone, I find the Windows Phone quite good for processing email and Calendar (but it sucks otherwise). I find the native IOs email app quite good (I have tried dozens of paid/unpaid apps out there). If I were able to Categorize on phone too and have that Category Sync to my Inbox automatically – I would kill for that feature.

Posted by PaulD  | March 30, 2016 at 9:13AM | Reply

Day 2 competed

Posted by Phil  | March 30, 2016 at 8:29AM | Reply

Worked at, but these remaining are the hardest and the slowest to process, so not complete.

Posted by Dmitr  | March 30, 2016 at 8:19AM | Reply

On it! Thanks

Oh I need to look at this use for OF

Posted by Janeson  | March 30, 2016 at 8:13AM | Reply

I processed a lot of emails and even got some thing done I had been “holding” there, I transferred the tasks to my to do list. But I still want to leave the emails I’m waiting for an answer to or need to respond to after I’ve done something in the inbox.

Posted by Dustin  | March 30, 2016 at 8:12AM | Reply

Some days it takes two 30 minute blocks for me, but helps me avoid the distracting “Let’s see what is in my inbox” time waster.

Posted by Chris  | March 30, 2016 at 8:04AM | Reply

Reply and Archive/Delete was never the problem. The problem for me was what to do with reference data? I never considered Evernote! However, that did the trick! And thanks to MailMate the integration is as smooth as it even can be.

Posted by Thorsten  | March 30, 2016 at 7:19AM | Reply

Done. But still remaining that most eMails needed to be processed. Many of them need to be read to keep informed about things going on in projects and PreSales activities, but needs more than 2 minutes to do this – but are also no real todo tasks.
I’ll just store them in a separate folder – but this does not really reduce the totally amount of time to process all Emails.

Posted by Diane Thompson  | March 30, 2016 at 6:41AM | Reply

My emails now take me 10 to 15 minutes to go through.

Posted by Paul  | March 30, 2016 at 6:06AM | Reply

Installed Airmail2 works great on multipule accounts.
Need to watch save to evernote only saves the message not the attachment.

Posted by Günther Wasser  | March 30, 2016 at 6:01AM | Reply

GTD rules apply here as well.
Together with my ToDoist integration it’s a breeze.

Posted by Kevin  | March 30, 2016 at 5:15AM | Reply

Forced myself to process for 1/2 hour straight and it made a difference. The rest was information I use based on GTD. I like Todoist and my Bullet Journal.

Ready for day 3.

Posted by Clemens Schleicher  | March 30, 2016 at 4:29AM | Reply

Yay. Done.
Finally ;-)

Posted by hef920  | March 30, 2016 at 4:17AM | Reply

Frustratingly have to wait to get home in the evening to get to the challenge link because of the iphone 9.3 disasters. Did wake up early this morning to do my 30 mins – I’m targeting my work inbox. Inbox zero at work would be bliss – enjoyed it for approximately 3 days once before! I ended up doing an hour and wish I did not have to go to work so I could blitz all of it!!

Posted by Stephen  | March 30, 2016 at 3:58AM | Reply

Done. This is a great refresh and glad to be back on the inbox zero bandwagon. I use Airmail as my client – great integration with Omnifocus, a weaker one with Evernote and nothing with Pocket (AFAIK) – if these were improved it would be easier to be an email ninja.

Posted by Graeme  | March 30, 2016 at 3:43AM | Reply

Done – dusting off GTD feels good

Posted by Nagesh  | March 30, 2016 at 3:24AM | Reply

Good effective strategy involving decision making followed by actions. Has helped gain control over my Work as well as Personal Inboxes – which now appear manageable. Day-2 completed quite satisfactorily.

Posted by Louise  | March 30, 2016 at 2:45AM | Reply

Done !

Posted by Hans  | March 30, 2016 at 2:07AM | Reply

Deleting was easy….still too many ifs and buts in my (not so trusted) system. One step at the time….

Posted by michele  | March 30, 2016 at 1:54AM | Reply

This process seemed to take forever as I didn’t check email till mid day and I had about 150 to scan. However, other than the ones that became tasks and those I immediately knew I wanted to read at some time (no rush), not wasting time on the rest by putting them into reply actually did save time. Tonight when I went through that folder I was able to decide what to do with the 20-30 emails fairly quickly. Much easier than trying to decide about all on the first pass mid-day.

Posted by Cathy  | March 30, 2016 at 12:35AM | Reply

Day 2 done.
(Finished assignment on Tuesday, but this comment was not completed until after midnight.)

Making progress…

Note: My longtime Mac and iOS task manager app, “2Do”, recently rolled out a new feature that allows you to email a task to 2Do. (This has been on my “wish list” for a long time!)
There are different ways to implement this, but to get going and
test it out today (I’m doing a 14-day trial before purchasing), I decided on this strategy:
I created a new gmail account to which I can forward/send any relevant email messages (similar to emailing items to an Evernote email address);
then I configured 2Do to check this new email account and turn all its inbox messages into tasks, so that I can track and process these items from within the 2Do app (instead of keeping them in my regular email inbox).
After setting this up, tonight I processed several emails, forwarding some of them to 2Do and then archiving them, or simply archiving the other messages.
Still have lots more to do, but I feel good about the progress I’ve made these first 2 days!

Posted by Joe  | March 30, 2016 at 12:27AM | Reply

Down to just a few emails now.

Posted by Kat S  | March 30, 2016 at 12:21AM | Reply

Done! I’ve heard the “touch it once” advice before and even done it for stretches of time, but when I get lazy about it, skipping one day inevitably turns into 30, lol. Still working on building the habit, but this challenge is helping. Thanks, AE!

Posted by Francesca  | March 30, 2016 at 12:02AM | Reply

So relieving.

Posted by Kimi  | March 29, 2016 at 11:44PM | Reply

Done. The hard part for me is to stop being a pack rat. I seem to have a belief that I need to keep xyz for some future event because it has happened before. Happens a lot at work. I guess 10 times in 3 months at 300+ emails a day is a small percentage. It happens way less often at home where I only get 100+ emails a day, so I will start learning how to “let go” at home and transfer that skill to work .

Posted by Wilson  | March 29, 2016 at 11:43PM | Reply

I still need to figure out an easy way to link the task back to the e-mail.

Posted by Ema  | March 29, 2016 at 11:38PM | Reply

This step is definitely my biggest challenge!

Posted by Gizem  | March 29, 2016 at 11:33PM | Reply

I did spend a bit more than 30 minutes but made some progress. This is working!

Posted by April Bell  | March 29, 2016 at 11:04PM | Reply

i did better with the emails I needed to delete than i did with those that needed a reply, a to do or to store. I find myself going for quantity of emails to delete rather than the discipline to reply to ones that take longer. but…i stayed on it for 30 minutes and am happy about that!

Posted by Alejandro  | March 29, 2016 at 10:52PM | Reply

Well, I wish I could say I did better on this one but it got a little tricky, definitely it required a lot more than 30 minutes to process all the emails even with the 4 decision making rules, and than was only for today’s emails, I didn’t even got close to process the ones from previous days. Also, it was good to see my inbox shrinking but now my to do list seems a little overwhelming. Still doing the challlenge though, I’m hoping that with a little bit of practice and discipline it’ll get easier and more eficient, besides, at least I didn’t leave any unread or unprocessed messages today wich is much better than before. Thanks for your help AE team!

Posted by Gordon  | March 29, 2016 at 10:25PM | Reply

I didn’t need the full 30 minutes to make it to zero!!

Posted by Israel Lang  | March 29, 2016 at 10:19PM | Reply

Making progress. Still about 100 e-mails from Inbox zero.

Posted by Gilbert  | March 29, 2016 at 10:14PM | Reply


Posted by Curtis  | March 29, 2016 at 10:14PM | Reply

I like the strategy but it may take a few days to get everything moved to the right place.

Posted by Kate  | March 29, 2016 at 10:10PM | Reply

I spent 3 hours on this and got my inbox from 221 to 70. Progress. I am very much out of sight, out of mind, so moving them to a different folder and putting tasks on a to-do list makes me nervous. We’ll see!

Posted by Justin  | March 29, 2016 at 9:00PM | Reply

Done. Utilized previously created folders for “Emails to Review” and “Emails to Respond to”. All other emails filed for reference or trashed.

Posted by Lisa  | March 29, 2016 at 8:52PM | Reply

Making good progress. Like previous posters, I was also using my inbox as a to do list. That wasn’t working out too well. Enjoy reading everyone’s tips!

Posted by Jeff  | March 29, 2016 at 8:37PM | Reply

Okay, got it done.

Posted by Bonnie  | March 29, 2016 at 8:26PM | Reply

Honestly, I’m confused. Not everything seems to fall into just these 4 categories. And after I forward an email to Omnifocus, what do I do with the email? Leaving it in the inbox seems to defeat the purpose of this exercise. But since this email spells out some task that I must do, I need to have it accessible as a reference.

Posted by Eric  | March 29, 2016 at 8:19PM | Reply

Terrific! First time I’ve ever gotten traction on the Inbox Zero process. Thanks. – Eric

Posted by Bob  | March 29, 2016 at 8:15PM | Reply

I rely on the great scripts from for moving mail to either Evernote (for storage) or Omnifocus for follow up. There are scripts that work for both Apple Mail and Outlook for Mac. I use them all the time!

Posted by Suhrid G  | March 29, 2016 at 8:11PM | Reply

Day 2 done and done. Inbox is starting to look great!

Posted by Rob M  | March 29, 2016 at 7:29PM | Reply

Coming up for air after… well… slightly more than 30 minutes of sorting, saving and deleting messages from my inbox. It’s somewhat scary actually, not using my inbox as a “to-do” repository. I’m not an Omnifocus or Evernote user, but I’ll look into both of those systems. Yesterday, 500+ emails in my inbox. This morning, 88. At this moment… 18. This feels good!

Posted by sleepydwarf  | March 29, 2016 at 7:20PM | Reply

Done! Thanks. Inbox zero and sent mail zero. :-)

Posted by Rachel  | March 29, 2016 at 6:57PM | Reply

Done! A lot more to do, but 30m worth cleared the most important stuff.

Posted by Terri  | March 29, 2016 at 6:51PM | Reply

This has been a good challenge. I am getting a much better handle on my email. Amazing how much can be accomplished in 30 minutes.

Posted by BS  | March 29, 2016 at 6:51PM | Reply

I did it with the help of Omnifocus, because this way I can easily drag an email to the notes section of a task and just add context and date when it should be finished.

Posted by Luis a Frias  | March 29, 2016 at 6:42PM | Reply

30 minutes would be awesome, but I would love to incorporate OmniFocus to my management…email is the bane of my existence.

Posted by Danny  | March 29, 2016 at 6:33PM | Reply

Done. At last.

Posted by josue Zarco  | March 29, 2016 at 6:20PM | Reply

Done :-) and INOX Zero xD

Posted by Matt  | March 29, 2016 at 6:17PM | Reply

I would LOVE to use Omnifocus but just cannot give up my Android phone. I have settled on Todoist which does not have a nice integration with Mail for turning an email into an action item. For now I have a folder “Todoist Email Tasks” where I put emails with information, links, etc. that I have created a task for in Todoist. Day 2 is forcing me to break the habit of using my email inbox as a “to do someday” folder that often becomes excessively full. Mostly this has been due to a “I don’t want to delete this because someday when I have time I want to [do something] with this email and don’t know where else to put it where I won’t forget about it.”

Posted by Brandon  | March 29, 2016 at 5:46PM | Reply


Posted by Jay  | March 29, 2016 at 5:40PM | Reply

Done my 30 mins before going back to work after the Easter weekend. Feeling relaxed about it all.

Posted by Cecilia  | March 29, 2016 at 5:38PM | Reply


Posted by Nick  | March 29, 2016 at 5:35PM | Reply

Done, inboz zero

Posted by Ratana  | March 29, 2016 at 5:25PM | Reply

30 minutes later… I needed another 30 minutes. As part of the ‘trash it’ section of this process, I went ahead and unsubscribed from a number of newsletters I used to read but now just skim through and delete. Less email for future me to process! Day 2, done.

Posted by Joshua Fritsch  | March 29, 2016 at 5:16PM | Reply

A question for all of us… if we have an email archive AND Evernote, should we use one or the other, or both? If the answer is both (as I have been doing in practice for a while) then what type of message goes where? Would love to hear thoughts on this… or perhaps this is a conversation for the Dojo.

Posted by Jan  | March 29, 2016 at 5:15PM | Reply

Done. Nice way to clean up your inbox (at least my emails from today). Still do not find enough slots in my calendar to schedule all tasks and thus my to do list becomes big…

Posted by Frank  | March 29, 2016 at 4:57PM | Reply

Done. Works fine with Todoist and Evernote.

Posted by Alexander  | March 29, 2016 at 4:39PM | Reply

I like the advise of categorizing mails based on future use. I already move actionable mails to omnifocus using the awesome airmail app for both osx and ios. I must admit however that altough i use evernote for digitalising all receipts and correspondence most reference emails end up in the archive folder. It’s worth considering storing all reference material in a single place though and only using mail as an inbox/communication medium (the way it was intended)

Posted by JW  | March 29, 2016 at 4:24PM | Reply

Done! Inbox Zero at home & work! I had used Active Inbox Gmail Extension for a while. Great on desktop, but lack of corresponding mobile app caused friction in my system.

Posted by Divaldo  | March 29, 2016 at 4:17PM | Reply

Completed! Piece of cake!

Posted by Ray Linville  | March 29, 2016 at 4:07PM | Reply


Posted by Bill  | March 29, 2016 at 4:03PM | Reply

Not as easy as yesterday’s task, but productive. Thanks.

Posted by Briana  | March 29, 2016 at 3:39PM | Reply

Getting closer! Did a bunch of mass deletions using search; have a ways to go yet but definitely making progress!! Still trying to figure out the best workflow for me – I use a Mac at work, a PC at home, and have an Android phone. I love OmniFocus, but tough to use with that setup…

Posted by Morgan  | March 29, 2016 at 3:18PM | Reply

👍🏻 small chunks and a plan

Posted by jL JAB  | March 29, 2016 at 3:07PM | Reply

I’m archiving emails in the project folder they belong to.
Send to OF when a task is to be done.
Send to Evernote when it contains some elements I’ll have to refer to in some days. And assigned a remember in Evernote if needed.

Posted by Philipp  | March 29, 2016 at 3:06PM | Reply

I don’t really know how to store interesting newsletters. It’s definitely no reference material, but I am not really sure to put them in my task manager

Posted by Martijn Kreek  | March 29, 2016 at 3:01PM | Reply

Done! Took me not too long.
Learned two new things. Instead of having some of my mail put in the ToDo and FollowUp folders in my mail box, I now have send those mails directly to Omnifocus and Evernote.


Posted by Jaime  | March 29, 2016 at 2:56PM | Reply

Done! Although it took a bit longer than 30 minutes. Interesting comments above regarding workflows, Omnifocus, etc. As one personally “stuck” on corporate Lotus Notes, I’m quiet jealous. Omnifocus and EN are not even allowed on our network.

Posted by Lisa Hoekstra  | March 29, 2016 at 2:37PM | Reply

It’s taking more than 30 minutes to get through but I am persevering through it. I have had a number of other work things to do including dealing with technology.

Posted by Dan  | March 29, 2016 at 2:34PM | Reply

Finished my work email, now on to the daunting task of my personal email inbox. The archive feature is the biggest thing for me at this point, as I always deleted or hung on to email cluttering up my inbox or some folder I thought would make sense somewhere down the line.

Posted by Robin  | March 29, 2016 at 2:33PM | Reply

I work remotely 95% of the time. So assignments come to me via email and must be completed via email. Therefore I have an email folder called “to do”. As I work my inbox, I process emails into Archive, Trash, or To Do very quickly. That keeps my inbox management and my only actual assignments are in my To Do box. I set this up when I first found AE and it has worked wonderfully for me.

Posted by Rick  | March 29, 2016 at 2:30PM | Reply

Day 2 completed.

Posted by Kim  | March 29, 2016 at 2:30PM | Reply

You know… I was all stoked about the promise of “handling” my email in 30 minutes a day, but this is looking like it will be 30 minutes of sorting my email (which generates a good 10 messages a day that require a deep and thoughtful response, say 20 minutes each.. ) 20 mins x 10 messages = 3.3 hours + a half hour sorting email and that brings me to about 4 hours a day at best. Not going to get me the magic 6 extra hours of free time a day that they mentioned initially. Did we assume that people at the office spend 6.5 hours a day just reading and staring at email? Isn’t some of that time spent actually replying?

Posted by mlg  | March 29, 2016 at 2:25PM | Reply

I created an ACTION SUPPORT folder for emails related to tasks I need to do. I deleted a bunch of emails, used the 2 min rule and created new tasks in Omnifocus. Still have emails left but feel good about my progress.

Posted by Dale  | March 29, 2016 at 2:23PM | Reply

I continue to struggle between using my inbox as a to-do list and getting to inbox zero. When I am extremely pressurised with outside appointments and have little time to process the mail it gets left in the inbox for dealing with later. 30 minutes is the minimum I need to actually get to zero. The problem comes when there are back to back days of extreme busyness…

Posted by MB  | March 29, 2016 at 2:21PM | Reply


Posted by Mike Dodson  | March 29, 2016 at 2:20PM | Reply

I schedule email time slots into my calendar each day, and I feel I do a good job (still room for improvement) using the same list mentioned by another user:
1. Delete it (trash)
2. Delegate it (forward)
3. Do it (<2 min)
4. Defer it (make it an Outlook Task)
5. File it for reference (in Outlook, Hard Drive or Evernote)

My challenge is I get about 300 emails on an average day and I can't process them that quickly. I usually have to schedule two 30-minute email sessions.

Posted by frank wilson  | March 29, 2016 at 2:17PM | Reply

Per info I picked up from AE, I just switched to Airmail 2. Airmail 2 fills in all of those gaps that my apple mail has. It has these exact features with just a click. The other feature I use alot is “snooze”. If I read an e-mail that I can’t deal with now but I need to get back to it in a few hours I just snooze it and deal with it when I have more time later that day. It always comes back to the top of my e-mail.

Posted by Tracy  | March 29, 2016 at 2:05PM | Reply

Great reminder. Been following these GTD ideas for years. (2 minute rule)

Posted by Jeff  | March 29, 2016 at 2:02PM | Reply


Posted by Nils  | March 29, 2016 at 1:57PM | Reply

Done for today. All emails are processed. I’m down to Inbox zero.

Posted by gail  | March 29, 2016 at 1:54PM | Reply

All clear!

Posted by Jon W  | March 29, 2016 at 1:49PM | Reply

Nice! ll done

Posted by Jeanie  | March 29, 2016 at 1:40PM | Reply

I’m struggling with step 2 – so I create a task with the email, but then what do I do with the email? Does it stay in my inbox (which doesn’t get me to inbox zero), or do I archive it (which doesn’t feel right b/c I’m not done with the email, and I might just want to delete it when I’m done with it…), or dump it in another folder that I have to remember to check (I fear out of sight out of mind will kick in…but I guess that’s why it’s on my to-do list…?)

Posted by Michael  | March 29, 2016 at 1:39PM | Reply

The most important thing for me was to have a good way where to put to-dos and store things for later.

I decided to start with a fresh OmniFocus database. Still could use a better way to store/organize things in Evernote.

Posted by Stephen  | March 29, 2016 at 1:34PM | Reply

Any thoughts on using One Note instead of Evernote? I used to use Evernote, but became a little disillusioned by the high cost of use (£35 per year in the UK).

Any thoughts gratefully received!

Posted by Enwongo Ettang  | March 29, 2016 at 1:33PM | Reply

This was quite rewarding. I don’t think I have ever deleted an email before apart from SPAM. I should try this more often.

Thanks guys… Done!!!

Posted by Árpád  | March 29, 2016 at 1:26PM | Reply

At the company is not allowed to use Evernote, the only solution is print to PDF and file. It is not my favourite task at all.
Otherwise a nice empty inbox, and a very short reply folder at me now. I use OmniFocus since a while, it is really a good tool.

Posted by Phill Coxon  | March 29, 2016 at 1:19PM | Reply


Posted by Claire  | March 29, 2016 at 1:04PM | Reply

It is surprisingly difficult to do it *only* for 30 minutes; but rewarding..

Posted by Matt Vincent  | March 29, 2016 at 12:54PM | Reply


Thanks so much, Asian Efficiency! Inbox Zero for today. Thank goodness. Got a few emails that I’ll need to revisit at a later date, but they’ve been processed and moved into a system that will remind me about them when it’s time. GTD and AE change lives.

Posted by Stephen  | March 29, 2016 at 12:52PM | Reply


Like most people, I have a number of email accounts (work, personal, etc). My challenge is whether I should process them all at the same time or run two separate exercises. I’m self-employed, so I wouldn’t be cheating my employer out of my time!

Posted by Michael Peay  | March 29, 2016 at 12:50PM | Reply

This fits nicely in with both the Pomodoro technique and the touch-it-once concept. While not generally recommended, I save my first pomodoro in the morning with a triage of my inbox to see how my day will be impacted (in IT, your customers come first).

Posted by Robert  | March 29, 2016 at 12:27PM | Reply

very similar to GTD

Posted by Karusha  | March 29, 2016 at 12:19PM | Reply

Done and I agree it is a great feeling. I have been following this principle for a while but I have some questions.

How often do you check your emails? I work for a large organisation where the main form of communication is email, even if the person is sitting 10ft from your desk. I have tried to change this custom with my team and have indicated that if something requires urgent attention, they must call or walk to my desk to chat. Otherwise, my email is only reviewed twice a day. Is that reasonable?

My second question is – how do you deal with emails that you are required to read and understand but not necessarily do anything about? It will take a long time to go through but will not require a response. Do these get added to your task list as a to do and then filed in a “to read” folder?


Posted by Jon Bash  | March 29, 2016 at 12:18PM | Reply

Done and done!

Posted by Debbie Rosemont  | March 29, 2016 at 12:01PM | Reply

Done. My decision making choices for processing email in Outlook is very similar to what you suggested:
1. Delete it (trash)
2. Delegate it (forward)
3. Do it (<2 min)
4. Defer it (make it an Outlook Task)
5. File it for reference (in Outlook, Hard Drive or Evernote)

Works like a charm when I'm disciplined to make a decision (all of which move the email out of my inbox).

Posted by Katherine Block  | March 29, 2016 at 11:55AM | Reply

Both my work and personal inboxes are already at 0. Almost everything I had sitting in my inbox was just there because I wanted to read it at some point. So I just copied the important things and put them in Evernote so I can take bites out of them when I have time.

That empty inbox puts my mind at ease *happy dance*

Posted by Stewart  | March 29, 2016 at 11:50AM | Reply

Taking the remaining work and personal emails from yesterday’s archiving, I zipped through both Inboxes in about 10 minutes each. This consisted, mainly, of a mass deletion with just a handful of emails remaining.

I created tasks in OmniFocus for these and moved the emails to a “ToDo” or “Waiting For” folder under the Inbox folder of each Exchange account.

I am using Spark for email on my iPhone which comes with a handy swipe option for moving email to a designated Archive folder which speeds things up there too.

I have achieved Inbox Zero!

Posted by Steven  | March 29, 2016 at 11:50AM | Reply

For me, if it’s less than ONE minute, I’ll do it and move on. Otherwise, it gets archived into a “park for action” email folder while into OmniFocus goes the quick entry regarding the next step, with the name of the person who sent the email, so I know where to find it once I’m ready to move on it. That way, no matter what it is, I can go through 50 emails in less than 10 minutes, and the inbox is kept small. Once the task is done, I convert the sent email (with the entire thread) into a folder as a pdf, then un-mark it and trash it. That way my “park for action” doesn’t contain already-acted-upon emails. Once you’re good at the process, I can have 75 things that need to be done, but I’m totally relaxed about them, and I know I won’t forget about them (thanks to my OmniFocus process).

Posted by Melissa  | March 29, 2016 at 11:49AM | Reply

I’ve been good about keeping my email to about 10 emails or less, lately. I’m hoping through this challenge I can keep it at 0 instead!

Posted by Mark  | March 29, 2016 at 11:33AM | Reply

Done and done. I want to do more but need to stick to my 30 mins. Trying to build the system that I can trust.

Posted by PG  | March 29, 2016 at 11:31AM | Reply

Does anyone use Sanebox? I’m digging this app for culling junk mail into one place that I process in minutes per day.

Posted by Louise  | March 29, 2016 at 11:30AM | Reply

Done. :) My inbox is empty already!

Posted by PG  | March 29, 2016 at 11:29AM | Reply

Oh I need to look at this use for OF.

Posted by Raoul  | March 29, 2016 at 11:05AM | Reply

Done with Omnifocus! Will try to add Evernote to my workflow for storing.

Posted by Steve  | March 29, 2016 at 10:45AM | Reply

Good feelings abound when inbox is zero.
My habit is forgetting as I don’t trust my system yet…I guess practice makes perfect.
I send todo’s to Omnifocus and then set up a due by date and time and work to checking it off the list…another good feeling.

Posted by Bruce Farley  | March 29, 2016 at 10:38AM | Reply

Small bites make for big progress–but good reminder to MAKE SURE we’re doing it every day!!

Posted by Eva  | March 29, 2016 at 10:36AM | Reply

Worked 30 Minutes on my inbox – surprisingly it is NOT empty yet.

Posted by K  | March 29, 2016 at 10:34AM | Reply

Done! The 80+ emails from the past month are not so daunting as the whole box. Gratifying to work intensely for a short time.

Posted by Michael  | March 29, 2016 at 10:29AM | Reply

as there were only 4 emails left in the inbox it didn’t take me 30 minutes. With the integrated function “Add to Wunderlist” two of them went to my digital to-do-list Wunderlist.

Posted by Brovaktaren  | March 29, 2016 at 10:27AM | Reply

Done and done. Feels good!

Posted by Toby  | March 29, 2016 at 10:27AM | Reply

I have the same problem. When did this change? I used to forward e-mails or more commonly blog posts I wanted to keep for reference to Evernote, and at one point that stopped working. The limit for free account users must be set ridicilously low.

Posted by Toby  | March 29, 2016 at 10:24AM | Reply

I recently started using Airmail on my iPhone. It has a handy action to send e-mails to OmniFocus. The action adds the text of the e-mail together with a link to it into the Note field. That way I can quickly jump back to the mail for follow-up. This also works in Airmail on the Mac, but only if Airmail is already open.

Only problem is that this just shifts the problem from my e-mail inbox to my OmniFocus inbox. Of course I know I should process that daily, but usually I don’t…and yes, I already have the OFPPv2.0 but haven’t read it all because it is too long.

Posted by Michael Setnicky  | March 29, 2016 at 10:23AM | Reply


I’m with a previous poster on some discomfort w/ putting needed replies on my task list.

More of an issue w/ my use of that list as the day unfolds I think.

Posted by Chris  | March 29, 2016 at 10:22AM | Reply

Processing underway. Inbox zero here I come.

Posted by Ysabel  | March 29, 2016 at 10:19AM | Reply

On it! Got started processing yesterday morning after the initial cleanse. 2000 more to go, but that’s much much better than 20,000!!!!

Posted by Katherine  | March 29, 2016 at 10:08AM | Reply

Got a lot done in 30 minutes. Not to zero yet but I’m under 50. I’m finally having the courage to delete some things rather than archive them. Now to work on my second email account!

Posted by Amy Harris  | March 29, 2016 at 10:06AM | Reply

Done. I use IQTell ( , so it is easy to make an email a task or link it to a project so I don’t forget. It’s just getting through all the email that is hard.

Posted by Erzsebet  | March 29, 2016 at 10:00AM | Reply

Done. And it feels so good! Refreshing, re-energizing! :)

Posted by Lisle  | March 29, 2016 at 9:56AM | Reply

I’m gmail user and love the app ActiveInbox. This challenge is exactly what I needed to get focused on maximizing ActiveInbox and getting to Zero Box.

Posted by John H. Miller  | March 29, 2016 at 9:48AM | Reply

Processing the email inbox is a daily task that sometimes feels like an uphill, never-ending battle and other days, it is smooth. 30 minutes can definitely make a difference!

Posted by Elaine  | March 29, 2016 at 9:46AM | Reply

Done! I almost got through everything. 40 minutes would have done it. I like to go through and delete or archive everything that I can first, then I am left with the ones that require some type of action.

One thing that is a problem for me now — I don’t want to pay for Evernote, and I can’t forward emails to it any longer. What kinds of alternatives are there for me?

Posted by James  | March 29, 2016 at 9:41AM | Reply

Done! Some have asked about quick push to OmniFocus from…..if you’re using the Omni Sync solution, they’ll give you an email address that sends things to your inbox – just forward the ‘task’ message to that address and archive it – it’ll be in your OmniFocus inbox shortly.

Posted by Ann Schmitz  | March 29, 2016 at 9:40AM | Reply

On it! Thanks

Posted by Jeff Grosse  | March 29, 2016 at 9:28AM | Reply

Once you get to zero, the 30 minutes isn’t even needed in many cases.

Posted by Brad  | March 29, 2016 at 9:27AM | Reply

Day 2 of the challenge…complete! I have been an Omnifocus user, but overcomplicating how it has to be used—the tips you’ve provided so far are not only getting my emails organized, but my OF life simplified…therefore working stronger for me!

Posted by Lisa F  | March 29, 2016 at 9:24AM | Reply

Last time I tried inbox zero it failed because I didn’t have a task manager in place. Now with OmniFocus I’m hoping it works.

Posted by Billy  | March 29, 2016 at 9:20AM | Reply

Love the tip of archiving in Evernote.

Posted by Chris Lassiter  | March 29, 2016 at 9:19AM | Reply

Here I go – 30 minutes and counting…..

Posted by Marieke  | March 29, 2016 at 9:17AM | Reply


Posted by Peter  | March 29, 2016 at 9:15AM | Reply

In Apple’s a little more difficult than on iOS. With for iOS and Omnifocus it is rather easy and fast to “triage” your inbox.
With the Omnifocus clip-o-tron it is easy in OSX, the problem is that the clip-o-tron link sent to Omnifocus is sometimes “lost” when used in Omnifocus for iOS. Apparently this is a “bug” of Apple’s

Posted by Aaron M  | March 29, 2016 at 9:13AM | Reply

Done – I am trying to work harder at #4 and trashing more emails. I keep running into storage issues and end up spending a lot of time going back at trying to delete old emails to free up space.

Posted by Mary Benson  | March 29, 2016 at 9:13AM | Reply

I simply hadn’t realized I was using my email Inbox as a to-do list. It makes perfect sense to move the to-dos to my true task manager (OmniFocus). I spent more than 30 minutes on this today, because I opted to take care of a number of those 1-minute jobs rather than even sending them to Omnifocus.

Posted by Nicole  | March 29, 2016 at 8:55AM | Reply


Posted by Phil  | March 29, 2016 at 8:53AM | Reply

Done! Feels so good to have an inbox zero :)

Posted by Copper  | March 29, 2016 at 8:50AM | Reply

On point #2 I think it is important to add that what you should not be doing is using your e-mail program as your to do list. It’s how many of us get into the e-mail mess to begin with!

Posted by Anne W  | March 29, 2016 at 8:49AM | Reply

I agree with the comment above about trusting your system. That is my struggle. I don’t fully trust my system (in other words, my own adherence to my system!), so I get nervous about filing for follow-up or putting on a to-do list. I need to work on making that system second nature. Thanks!

Posted by Sergei Kolobov  | March 29, 2016 at 8:41AM | Reply

I’m a heavy Gmail (well technically, Google Apps) user – I have multiple separate email accounts. I use Mailplane ( to access all my Gmail accounts. Thanks to Mailplane’s excellent built-in integration with OmniFocus and Evernote I have easy methods for making a todo in OmniFocus from a message , or saving it for future reference in Evernote. However, my favorite feature is Archive button in Gmail – I rarely (if ever) delete email but I archive most of the incoming email after reading.

Posted by Andrei  | March 29, 2016 at 8:32AM | Reply

The one thing is struggle with is creating tasks for the emails i need to reply to. I keep working on it till i’ll do it consistently

Posted by Tajinder  | March 29, 2016 at 8:31AM | Reply

This was easy!

Posted by Scott  | March 29, 2016 at 8:30AM | Reply

I love the freedom this provides once you trust the system…before you trust it I’m always scared of losing an email and therefore a deal.

I’ve found having an end of day clearing routine helps as well I have a semi temp folder that I store emails in that are quick but not rapid responses. I’m sadly using outlook which seriously encumbers ones ability to customize but if you poke around enough you can do it….I still wish my company would allow something else :-|

Posted by Tomas  | March 29, 2016 at 8:27AM | Reply

I feel more in control of my emails and not the way around.

Posted by Mark  | March 29, 2016 at 8:24AM | Reply

Done! Aided by some google apps scripts I wrote that simplify saving to Evernote and liberal use of search and delete/archive.

Posted by Mark  | March 29, 2016 at 8:24AM | Reply

I’m an OmniFocus user. When I need to add an email to a todo list for future action, I’m using a workflow I stole from others (can’t remember if I learned it from AE or from MacSparky or another source of Keyboard Maestro wisdom). I’ve created a Keyboard Maestro macro that will copy a link to the selected email and create a new Omnifocus Task with that link in its details. Then I archive the email immediately.

When that item comes up in your to do list, you can just click on the link and the email will pop open without having to search the archives.

Posted by Heather  | March 29, 2016 at 8:21AM | Reply

Definitely see the benefit of making the decision and adding items to my to do list right away rather than having a variety of emails that do and don’t need attention hanging out in my inbox!

Posted by Leonardo  | March 29, 2016 at 8:10AM | Reply

I did the trick, but I was helped by third party apps… no way to “put on todo list” and/or store for later using At least not in a bunch of clicks/taps…

Posted by Mike  | March 29, 2016 at 8:07AM | Reply

Good use of external tools.

Posted by Finn  | March 29, 2016 at 8:06AM | Reply

This was surprisingly gratifying!

Posted by Rob  | March 29, 2016 at 8:05AM | Reply

GTD helps with this set up!

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