How to declutter your inbox

You’ve been there, I’ve been there. Emails stacked up in your inbox like bodies in a Tarantino film.

But why—despite your many pledges to ‘leave no email behind’—does the unread badge of defeat tick ever upward? How can we put an end to this vicious cycle?

After years of pathetic email avoidance, I think I’ve found a way to kick the habit of the ungrateful unread forever. Here’s my 6-step plan that has been working so far.

1. Kill email subscriptions.

This one is a no-brainer. Unless you love receiving a newsletter, unsubscribe. Your inbox should be a land of opportunity, not dread.

2. Check your email at certain times—and only those times.

Studies show it can take a long time to recenter your chi (and refocus) after being interrupted. So don’t let every email that comes in interrupt you. Don’t divide your attention, ever. Kill the interruptions, turn on ‘Do not disturb’ and set aside times at which you’ll get to your inbox.

3. Write shorter emails.

Don’t be afraid to sound like a jerk—you won’t.

4. Always respond—even when you don’t have an answer.

If you don’t know how to answer a question or you need to think more before giving an in-depth response, just say so. A simple, “Thanks for this—will review closely and get back to you with my thoughts.” will work. Or my personal favorite: “Will circle back with the team and get back to you soon. Stay tuned!” Or…

5. Schedule a call.

If you find yourself avoiding responding to an email because of the amount of emotional or mental energy involved in writing a massive response, opt for a call. Use the points and/or questions you received in the email as an agenda for your call.

6. Be okay with saying no.

As a people pleaser this can be hard, but be honest. If you’re not interested, say thanks and that you’ll keep them in mind.


That’s what’s been working for me. But what about yourself? What email habits have you found to be helpful in slaying the hordes of email that assault your inbox every day?

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