Inbox Zero with Gmail (again)

Christian Michel
Published in
4 min readJan 23, 2019


For a few years, I’m practicing the Inbox Zero approach, which helps me a lot in getting stuff out of my mind and let email work for me again, instead of the other way around. If you never heard about the concept, please watch this (long) video:

My main tool was Google’s Inbox which was created exactly for that purpose and I’m a fan since the release. Unfortunately, Google decided to stop with Inbox in March 2019.

In this post, I will tell you a little more about how I practice Inbox Zero and will take the step from Inbox to Gmail while writing this article…

A few tips first:

Plan when to check your inbox, do not use notifications.

As I wrote before: email should work for you and you should not be your inbox’s slave. Take control. Reserve some time slots per day to check your email, for example, at 10 am, 1pm and 4pm. It should not be too frequent that it will cost you productivity for other tasks, but it should not be too infrequent so that you have to work through hundreds of emails each time. Notifications kill your concentration, stop them.

Unsubscribe A LOT!

Believe me, it will get better if you unsubscribe from newsletters and system mails that you don’t need. It takes a little more time than just archiving/deleting it, but it is worth it in the long run. Search for that link in the email and if there is none: use the spam notification function.

Filters can help you with system mails / notification mails

Emails from systems like GitHub and JIRA often serve as notification that something might require your action. If you filter them and they are bundled in your inbox, you can decide how frequently you want to pay attention to them (once a day? twice per day?) and then work on them within one reserved time slot. That way, you don’t need to switch between several systems all the time.

Snoozing email is the most important feature to achieve Inbox Zero

Almost no emails require response right away. It’s just not the medium for that purpose. When doubting between responding (and how) and archiving, just snooze it. Time is your mind’s friend. Often, what seemed to be super important at the time, isn’t that important at all after you slept a night over it. This is called the availability heuristic. If you receive an email (and worse: get a notification about it), it is the most recent thing on your mind and easily mistaken as the most important thing on your mind. Snoozing helps you to counter this.

I choose days that do not have a lot of meetings (Wednesday and Friday for me) as “snooze-to” days. On those days, I handle a lot of my snoozed mail, without interruptions.

Now, in practice. How does my inbox look like right now?

Google’s Inbox
Switch to Gmail
Cry 😭

Ok, some first thoughts:

  1. I don’t like the “unread” bold in the left menu. It gives me anxiety.
  2. I don’t like the tabs. In some tabs there are mails, in some there aren’t. It isn’t an empty inbox at all.

The tabs are removed easily:

Configure inbox
Remove all tabs

And now, archive everything!

select all and archive

Ok, this already looks better:

Now, let’s get rid of everything that is confusing and wants your attention.

hide is your friend
we don’t use Google chat

The result:


One more thing you can do to not encounter old unread messages is to search for “in: unread”, select them all and mark them as read:

This can take a while

Now, one more final touch and I’m ready (for now):

The final result includes a Gmail Theme



Christian Michel

CTO @ Kaartje2go 🎲 fan of board games and retro games 👾