Did you know that notifications – whether they be from your cell phone, laptop, or tablet –elicit a stress response in your body? Each time your device beeps or you see a notification pop on your screen, a stress hormone called cortisol is released into your body. Too much of this hormone can lead to anxiety, an increased heart rate, tense muscles, and even sweaty palms.

It is no wonder that receiving countless email notifications throughout the day is enough to leave us feeling stressed and even a little burnt out. The average working person receives around 126 emails per day – that’s a lot of notifications and more than enough reason to feel frazzled.

Achieving inbox zero, which means having an email inbox that is completely empty of unread messages, is an extremely rewarding and soothing exercise. It’s something that many of us aim for but, by the end of the day, have not achieved. So, how do you achieve inbox zero and take control of your email notifications? Here are our top tips.

What is inbox zero?

The concept of inbox zero isn’t only an email tactic for working towards an empty inbox. It’s a widely debated method that was coined by the American writer Merlin Mann that refers to carving out time in your day to be your most productive.


A person typing on a laptop


Inbox zero is less about the number of emails in your inbox and more about time management. You’ve achieved inbox zero when you’re able to detach from a constant flow of incoming email notifications and focus instead on the priorities on your to-do list. Achieving inbox zero is resisting the urge to check your mails in the first place.

While inbox zero is about blocking out time to create and be productive, having an empty inbox doesn’t hurt. Here’s how you can get it right.

Hit unsubscribe

Many of the emails we receive each day don’t actually require our attention. Yet they result in a stress-inducing notification and add to the number of emails in our inboxes. The simplest way to get fewer emails is to unsubscribe from promotional emails and newsletters that you don’t usually read in the first place. If there are newsletters that come through that you feel you do want to read at some point, file them away and read them when you have time to do so.

If you or your company use task or project management apps where the notifications come to your inbox, unsubscribe from those emails too. Rather set aside time each day to attend to the notifications in apps instead of them clogging up your inbox.

Set rules and create a system

Most email clients allow you to set rules, create labels, use tags, and set up subfolders that allow you to better organise your inbox. Organise your emails from most important to least important or from what needs an urgent response to what can be replied to later. You can also set rules that automatically file emails based on certain words appearing in the mail or based on the sender. The more organised your emails are, the quicker you’ll achieve inbox zero.


A happy woman working


There are also email add-ons that you can use to snooze certain emails until you have time to deal with them. These apps often give you the ability to set reminders as to when you should be responding to emails. You even get extensions that help you pause your inbox while you work on other tasks.

Schedule time to check emails

Although this point doesn’t necessarily help you achieve inbox zero, it can certainly cut your stress response in half. The average working person checks their emails up to 15 times per day – that’s a lot of time being pulled in every direction rather than getting work done. Set up certain times within your schedule to attend to emails. Keep these blocks short so that you don’t end up spending hours sifting through emails and keep your email application closed the rest of the time. This requires a little discipline, but you’ll soon reap the benefits.

Keep it in one place

Having your emails available on more than one device is the quickest way to kill your productivity (and the opposite of achieving inbox zero). If you’re getting notifications on your computer, phone, and tablet every time a single email comes through, you’re going to find yourself feeling anxious and like you don’t have much control over the situation.




Our advice is to only have your emails available on your computer and to take your email app off your phone and other devices. This way you control your emails, they don’t control you.

Hire a second set of eyes

Did you know that having a virtual assistant can help you achieve inbox zero? One of the things virtual assistants can do is monitor, manage, and organise your inbox for you. They can go through each email and determine what requires a response and what doesn’t. That way, by the time you sit down to respond to emails, someone has already narrowed them down to what really requires your attention.

If you would like to learn more about how a virtual assistant can help you be more productive and achieve inbox zero, visit our website.

Our free digital guide
to working with a VA

Concerned that hiring a virtual assistant may be more bother than benefit?

You’re not alone, which is why we created an informative roadmap to help onboard you with your virtual assistant.

Download our free guide, ‘Getting Started with a Virtual Assistant’, that explains how best to take the virtual plunge and reap the productivity rewards to come.

Download Our Guide

To getting started with a Virtual Assistant.

By submitting this form, I consent to contact via phone and email, as per AVirtual's Privacy Policy.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.