Zeroed out: Five steps toward restoring inbox sanity

Enlarge (credit: Jesper Sehested / Flickr)

Welcome to 2018, filled with new newsletters, new launches, and new resolutions. In case "decluttering your digital life" sits among your goals in 2018, we're surfacing a classic Ars guide to achieving inbox zero. This piece originally run on December 14, 2008, and it appears unchanged below.

Last week, I posted a message on Facebook about having successfully emptied my inbox. I was surprised by the number of comments I got in return. One friend said that she had "no words to describe the level of my admiration and jealousy." Another bemoaned his inbox tally of 10,545 messages.

Back in the day, I used to be fairly diligent about sorting email. After writing for Ars for a while, the volume of email made that a much tougher task. Fortunately for me (and others in my boat), Apple got serious about indexing in 2005 with the inclusion of Spotlight in Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger). With all the contents of Mail.app indexed and readily available with a search, keeping things sorted didn't seem all that urgent. Relying on Spotlight to keep track of one's mail can become inefficient, however, and I recently got disgusted with my inbox and decided to get organized. It took a couple of hours to get from 2,500 to 50, where I happily resided for awhile. Going down to zero took another 15 minutes or so.

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