The feeling of an empty inbox is a glorious and rewarding one. It gives us a sense of fulfillment.
But while many strive for inbox zero, most fail. And for the few who accomplish it, only do so temporarily. Why is that?
Inbox zero is not a one-and-done initiative. It requires your constant commitment to managing your inbox, virtually forever. But no matter how disciplined you are, there’s a good chance you’ll accidentally slip one day and before you know it, all the hard work you committed to keeping your inbox clean will go right down the drain. Your inbox can overflood overnight, setting you back to square one.
So for those of us who’ve conquered inbox zero, how do we maintain it?
This post will show Gmail users how to maintain inbox zero using three helpful Gmail features Priority Inbox, Auto-Advance, and Send and Archive.
Prioritize Your Inbox with Priority Inbox
Every morning we open and check our email, only to find ourselves overwhelmed with an inbox full of new messages. Knowing what project or task to take on first can be mentally exhausting because it's difficult knowing which one is the most important thing you need to tackle when there are so many things vying for your attention at once.
Thankfully for Gmail users, Priority Inbox can help mitigate this feeling of email anxiety.
With Priority Inbox, you can choose to have Gmail automatically sort and prioritize email for you. This means that the most important emails are always at the top of your inbox while other messages with less urgency will be placed in lower sections. Your inbox will also be sorted into three different sections based on what kind of emails there are: ‘Important/Unread’ messages will appear in the top section of your inbox, starred items will go in another sect
Leveraging Gmail’s Priority Inbox can seriously help you jumpstart your day by showing what you probably need and should tackle first.
To learn more about and to be more productive with Gmail’s Priority Inbox, you can follow our guide.
Work Through Emails with Auto-Advance
Imagine this: you grab your physical mail from the mailbox and neatly place every letter on your kitchen table. You swiftly glance at all of your mail while sipping your coffee, as you decide which mail to open first. You randomly select a letter, open it, read it, only to realize it's a waste of time, so you throw it in the trash.
Then you go back to glance at all the mail on your table again, and you repeat the entire process till you’re done going through all your mail.
Does this sound familiar? Despite how silly it may seem, let alone how much of a waste of time it can be, this behavior is very similar to how we manage our email inboxes. People often open their inbox, briefly skim all the subject lines deciding which one to open, and reply to first. Then they back to the inbox to skim all of the remaining emails just to repeat the whole process. It’s a completely inefficient way of processing emails and use of valuable time.
While we all would like to believe that we’re productive multi-taskers, the truth is – most of us are not. Our brain isn’t wired to process a ton of different information at once effectively. Instead, the key to staying focused while processing emails is to go from email to email one at a time, skipping the inbox in between.
Instead of checking and re-checking your inbox over and over, turn on Gmail’s Auto-Advance feature to prevent this unintentional bad habit and simplify your email processing.
By activating Gmail’s Auto-Advance feature, you can continue to the next email message without having to go back to your inbox. You can handle each email once, one after another-- just like you would if you were sorting through a stack of physical mail!
How to Turn on Gmail’s Auto-Advance Feature
Turning on Auto-Advance is easy. Follow these steps:
- Go to your Settings in Gmail
- Click view all settings
- Select Advanced
- Select Enable next to Auto-advance.
Once you have enabled Auto-Advance, go to the ‘General’ tab within your Gmail Settings, and select how you would like your auto-advance feature to function.
Tip: If you prefer to process your emails in order from newest to oldest, be sure to select Go to the next (newer) conversation.
Archive Old Conversations with Send and Archive
One overlooked reason for email overload is the fact that there are simply too many pointless and old emails, such as old email conversations, sitting idly in our inboxes. Too often, people have email exchanges and leave the email in the inbox after the conversation is over.
Remember, the more emails you have to review creates more visual clusters, which ultimately drains more mental energy.
One way to prevent unnecessary email conversations from clogging your inbox without altering your workflow is Gmail’s Send and Archive feature.
How does it work? Send & Archive automatically archives an email after you have replied to it-- removing another email out of sight! If the recipient replies to you, the email will reappear in your inbox, so you don’t have to worry about missing a notification.
How to Turn on Gmail’s Send and Archive Feature
If you’re ready to archive emails as quickly as you send them, then you should turn on Send and Archive by following these steps:
- Go to your Settings in Gmail
- Click view all settings
- Go to the General tab, scroll down to Send and Archive
- Select Enable
- Click Save
Once you have activated Send and Archive, any email you reply to will give you the option to either send the email as usual or send & archive it. See the image below.
Maintaining Inbox Zero
To keep the feeling of joy from conquering inbox zero afloat, make sure to leverage these 3 Gmail features.
Turning on Priority Inbox, or customizing your inbox to your personal preference to have Important and Unread emails appear at the top of your inbox, can help you improve productivity by highlighting what you should tackle first.
When you decide to check your Gmail mailbox, don’t view all the new emails at once. Instead, open your most recent Important and Unread email first, and then work through each email one by one with Auto-Advance. You will save yourself significant time and sanity from having to revisit your inbox after dealing with an email.
When you’re replying to an email, make sure to reply using Send and Archive, so you can automate the removal of unnecessary emails sitting in your inbox after you’re done with a conversation.
Focus on Important Emails Based on Your Priorities with InMoat
Gmail’s Priority Inbox, Auto Advance, and Send and Archive work together to help you manage your inbox once you’ve already received, all of your emails. InMoat works by prioritizing incoming emails before they land in your inbox. With InMoat, you can select the types of emails that are important to you, such as calendar invites, project management and collaboration tool notifications, and travel itineraries, and ensure they are prioritized in your inbox. All of the other not-so-important and non-urgent emails will be filtered into a folder to be reviewed when it is convenient for you.