The Zero Inbox: How I keep things simple

I am an¬†admitted¬†organizing¬†fiend. I adore things in their place. I face all my labels out and I make my bed every day. That’s just me. If you know all this stuff already and I am just out of touch with peoples gmail skills, forgive me.

Since Dan and I have a lot of email addresses and a lot of people to answer too, I had to come up with an email system that would work all the time for everything. Here’s how we do it.

We have three gmail accounts. One is for our personal email and personal projects. This is the one where moms and friends email us. This is also the inbox where emails from our kayak trip come to as well, (yes we still get emails from aspiring adventurers). We have a gmail account that is¬†solely¬†for Charles River Canoe and Kayak, where Dan works full-time and I work for the social media aspect of it. Lastly we have our photography account, that holds all our business emails, as well as all the Welcome Them Home emails that I get from photographers. With this seperation, I can keep those aspects of our lives¬†separate, and work only on one thing at a time… which really helps with focus.

Within each of those inboxes, we have emails come in labeled, via Settings>Labels. If a “Welcome¬†Them Home” email comes into the inbox, it automatically comes in as labeled “WTH” and I can clearly see it is different than our Bethany and Dan emails. We do this with a few things in our inboxes just so we can see a distinct separation. If its a¬†normal¬†email being sent to our usual inbox, its not labeled.

So here is how we manage our Zero inbox and I stay sane with all the different emails for different things we receive.

1. I sit down in the morning and open each account. I start with one and go through each email. If I can answer the email without having to really dig into it, I do it right then. If I will need to focus on it, I pass it and go on to the next. If it’s junk, I unsubscribe and delete. If its something that I do not need to respond to but I want to keep it, I archive it. If it’s something that I need, like flight info for 2 weeks from now, but it¬†doesn’t¬†need to live in my inbox, I boomerang it, (more on that later). This first run through and it helps me see what things I will need to deal with that day.

2. I go back through and reply to all the emails that take a little more thought, like a wedding timeline, or a question from a Bride. Once I reply, I archive the email. If they respond and it will come back to my inbox. If they¬†don’t¬†respond and I do need to follow up, like if its an inquiry, I will boomerang it, (I promise I’ll explain).

3. At this point, my inbox is empty, ideally.

I love the system because I can¬†clearly¬†see what I need to deal with email-wise, but I don’t have to look at a bunch of emails that I “should” deal with. Im not perfect and my inbox isnt empty daily, but it’s what I do most of the time. I have to do this 2-3 times a day but it¬†really¬†helps me keep things on track. Being organized is KEY to managing so many email addresses and topics and two people.

Here are a few of the tools I mentioned that help me do this:

1. Send and Archive: This is a lab in gmail and you can enable in your account that will let you send and archive at the same time. Its beautiful because I can reply to emails, work my way through the inbox, and then when I refresh the page, all that is left is the emails that I have not responded to. I can’t imagine gmail without it.

2. Boomerang: I love love love this extension. It allows you to send messages later, have messages return to your inbox if people don’t reply, and just have things pop back up if you want them to. I use it daily and it is an integral part of our email system. Download it here.

So… I hope that helps, even if it’s just one person that makes my “OCD” heart happy.



  1. Lyndsey Durning August 14, 2012

    Isn’t Gmail the greatest? It’s how I keep things organized too. Such a great e-mail system. And from living with you in college, having a roommate that kept things organized was sooooo nice! Love and miss you!

  2. Ashley Goodwin August 14, 2012

    Great to know! I have gmail and know it has tons of potential so it’s good to hear what you do!


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