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David Lee King: Keep Your Inbox Empty

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So how's your email inbox looking lately? Is it tidy and small? Have you achieved Inbox Zero? Or are you like most of us - your email inbox is overflowing with lots of emails that you probably don't really need, and you can't find that one email that you really do need to do your job right now?

Image: David Lee KingDavid Lee King

David Lee King is the Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, where he plans, implements, and experiments with emerging technology trends.

He speaks internationally about emerging trends, website management, digital experience, and social media, and has been published in many library-related journals. David is a Library Journal Mover and Shaker.

His newest book is Face2Face: Using Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Media Tools to Create Great Customer Connections.

David blogs at

Read David's other articles…

Same here - been there, done that. However, there is an easier way to manage your email. Have you heard of Inbox Zero (find out more at It's a method of managing email that keeps your inbox … empty.

I'm not really a stickler for achieving Inbox Zero (right now, I have about 20 emails in my inbox). But 20 is much better than 200, and I can easily find everything.

Either way, keeping your email inbox small and uncluttered is a good idea. Depending on what email system you have, thousands of emails sitting in your inbox can slow down your email software's performance considerably. And it's just harder to find emails that you need when you have to sift through a ton of email to find that one important item.

Image: Keep Your Inbox Empty

Plus, you very possibly have an email quota. It's never fun receiving that automated message saying you have exceeded your email storage limit, and have to delete in order to continue receiving email.

So what do you do? Here's a pretty simple way to deal with email that will help you tidy up your email inbox. Maybe even empty it. It's a combination of Inbox Zero and Getting Things Done - it's another useful way to deal with email, project management, and your to-do list).

Getting Rid of Emails:

  1. Answer it. If you can quickly answer the email, do it. Then delete.

  2. Store it somewhere else. If it is something that you need for a project and need to keep it for a while, make a project folder, and stick everything related to that project there.

  3. Just delete it. Was the email an informational one? Read it, then delete it.

That's all! Pretty simple stuff. Here's where I vary from the Inbox Zero method. I sometimes need to see that email staring me in the face, to remind me about something. For example, I sent myself an email reminding me to write this article! So I'll keep some emails in my inbox, unread and/or flagged so they stand out, to remind me about something.

Yes, there are probably better ways to remember things I need to do, but this works for me.

That's how I process my emails, and usually end up with a small email inbox. Get rid of those emails, and unclutter that part of your life!