Getting to Inbox Zero

Several years ago, I stumbled across Merlin Mann’s 43 Folders website. It was there I first heard of the expression “Inbox Zero” — a method to empty your e-mail inbox and keep it empty on a daily basis. I was lucky enough to later hear Merlin Mann speak at Inman Connect in New York City, and afterward, I used some of his methods to keep my inbox at a manageable capacity.

I admit I have never quite reached zero, but my goal is to have no more than 25 e-mails in my inbox at any given time. As a Gmail user, I currently have 95,000 e-mails archived, but as I write this, only 19 of those are active. I use two Gmail tools to help manage my e-mails.

Boomerang for Gmail allows you to archive messages until you need them. Simply “boomerang” a message and choose when you need to see it in the future. The message will be archived and returned back into your inbox when you are ready for it. Boomerang will also allow you to reply to an e-mail and archive it, and Boomerang will place it back into your inbox if no one responds. It is a great reminder that you need to follow up! Depending on how much e-mail you receive, the free version may be all you need. is a free tool to help eliminate unwanted e-mail, including those newsletters that seem to multiply in your inbox. keeps you organized by providing you with a daily overview of all your subscriptions. When I first used, I was amazed at how many things I was subscribed to!

Neither of those two tools were available when Merlin wrote his original articles on the topic of Inbox Zero in 2006, but you will find the details of his methods at the Inbox Zero website.