Zero Inbox Tips From #TheRookieAdmin

As #TheRookieAdmin, it only took a few weeks to discover a few "for sures" about my new role as an administrator:

  • There are a lot of REALLY long meetings!
  • At each of these meetings, my To-Do list grows exponentially.
  • While I'm away from the office, my EMAIL is reproducing at a rapid pace!

No matter your role in education, raise your hand if you can relate to the email monster!

I had heard of this “Zero Inbox” plan to stay organized, but I immediately thought, "That's impossible!" However, after watching Merlin Mann’s Google Tech Talk, I decided to create a few of my own Zero Inbox Tips.

#TheRookieAdmin Zero Inbox Plan

Necessary Resources

  • Upload the Google Keep This is an excellent to-do list. (Of course, you can always use Post-It-notes.)
  • Another app that helps you stay organized is Flipboard. This is the ideal place to "file" your favorite blog posts or articles.
  • is incredible for housing your favorite articles and blogs.

Work-Life Table of Contents

Next, build 10 main folders in your email. These folders are like the "chapters" of your work. This list is your "Work-Life" Table of Contents.

  • Name one of your folders "Follow Up." Trust me. This one is a must.
  • Also, I strongly recommend one of your folders to be named-Feel Good Folder. This, too, is pretty significant.
  • You can have subfolders under the 10 main ones. However, don't create too many subfolders. If you do, you will only relocate your current chaos.

Initial Elimination

  • Start by deleting anything that doesn't need attention or doesn’t need to be saved.
  • If it needs to be saved, organize it into folders.
  • Unsubscribe to as much as you can. If it is your favorite blog, place the URL in Feedly. You can read these blogs during a time that is convenient for you.

The worst part of this process is cleaning your inbox out initially, but you can do this.

*Ultimate Cheat Code= If your inbox is completely out of control and you're afraid you might lose something important by deleting, "Archive" the whole thing (Highlight your email list, right-click and choose "archive.") and begin with the routine below. Nothing will be deleted by archiving. This is a Tier 2 intervention. Remember, one day you're going to want to tackle this, too.

Daily Zero Inbox Routine

When I walk in each morning, the tabs that automatically open on my computer are my Inbox, my Google Calendar, Google Keep and Feedly.

Each day I begin with my inbox.

  • Immediately respond to what I can, and delete it.
  • If it needs extra steps, I place it on my Google Keep To-Do list and eliminate the email.
  • If it requires someone else to follow up, I respond and place it in a titled folder by topic.
  • If it's needing a date or a scheduled appointment, I immediately respond and get it on the calendar. Then, delete the email.
  • If it's a blog or newsletter, I place the URL in Feedly and unsubscribe.
  • If it's an article I want to refer to later, it goes in Flipboard.
  • If it is something that makes me "feel good," it goes in the Feel Good folder. When I need some encouragement, I pull up this folder to remind me that I don't have bad days, just bad moments.
  • Anything that is open and still needs attention stays in my inbox for now.

Then, I work down my Google Keep to-do list throughout the day--when I'm in my office.

I do schedule some time, on my calendar (usually after work hours), to mow down my list that has yet to be tackled.

By the end of the day, anything left in my inbox gets another look. If I can't take care of it before I leave, it goes in the "Follow-Up" folder. However, I try to limit this number. Remember, this is where you will begin the next day. You don't want to relocate the chaos.


You did it! Feel liberated?!


Tara M. Martin - Educator for the Lawrence Public School District USD 497
Twitter: @TaraMartinEDU, Blog: