48,762 is a completely unacceptable number

As an "inbox zero" guy (one who strives to keep his email's inbox empty or as close to empty as possible), you can't imagine how upsetting this particular phone is to me. 

It's real, too. This iPhone belongs to someone I know. I took this photograph.  

Just knowing that this number exists in the world (and is probably larger) is distressing to me. 

If you're looking to gain some control over your own inbox, may I recommend using a mail app like Inbox, which allows you to reschedule your email to a more convenient and appropriate time for you. 

For example:

  • I schedule all tax related information, invoices, and digital receipts to return to my inbox on February 1 of each year.
  • I schedule tickets for shows and events to return to my inbox on the actual date of the show.
  • I schedule information pertaining to workshops, speeches, and meetings (agendas, directions, contact info) to return to my inbox at the time and date of the actual meeting or workshop. 
  • I'll even reschedule email received during the morning or afternoon to the evening or the next day if that is when I plan to respond to it.

All done with the simple swipe of a thumb.  

Amongst the many rescheduling choices offered by the app (Tomorrow, Later this week, This weekend, Next week, a specific time and date) is "Someday," which also allows me reschedule a complimentary email to hit my inbox a second time.

A reader writes to me to compliment me on a book. A former student writes to me thanking me for inspiring her. A friend sends an unexpected email with words of kindness and generosity.   

I reschedule it for "Someday," and surprise and joy get a second visit. A second shot of the brain's four "feel good" chemicals: endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine.


Inbox has many other fantastic features that I routinely use, but the ability to reschedule your email to arrive at a time that fits your schedule is the feature I use most often.

It keeps things manageable. Prevents me from missing or forgetting about an email. Keeps my mind uncluttered. It allows me to operate at "inbox zero" or close to it every day. 

I'm not saying that your goal should be inbox zero. I'm merely implying that you will be a far better human being if you are an inbox zero devotee like me. 

Nine rules for making you more efficient with email and less of a jerk face

1. Email is often a means of informal communication. As such, you can dramatically decrease the amount of time spent with email with short, efficient replies like, ‘Thanks” and “Understood” and “Agreed.” Dispense with formalities whenever possible and increase efficiency. image

2. Blind Carbon Copy (BCC) is often the tool of the passive aggressive coward. Before including an email address in this field, always ask yourself why you are using it. If you’re trying to hurt or embarrass someone or conceal something, knock it off, jerk face.

3. Never send an email written to express your anger or disappointment with someone. Those emotions are better conveyed over the phone or in person, where unnecessary aggression and excessive vitriol cannot be shielded by the passive aggressive nature of email. In other words, don’t be a coward. If you’re upset, pick up the phone.

4. “I sent that angry email because I express myself better in the written form and was too anger to speak” is never an excuse for violating rule #3.

5. If you receive an angry email, pick up the phone and respond immediately. The faster, the better. The best way to handle a passive-aggressive person is in an aggressively direct manner. Angry email senders tend to be people who do not handle conflict well and therefore hide behind technology. Pulling back the technological curtain will be uncomfortable for them and will often knock them off their position.

6. Inbox zero should be your goal, if only for productivity and efficiency purposes. Leaving email in your inbox forces you to look at that email every time you access your mail application, which takes time and energy. It’s akin to sifting through the same growing pile of mail every day to find a specific letter or bill. Inbox zero will eliminate the time required to take action on incoming emails by not adding them to an already enormous pile.


7. Use a mail application that allows you to schedule a time when you want an email to hit your inbox. Turn email into something that you receive when you want to receive it. For me, this is Mailbox, though many other applications offer similar functionality. I often reschedule incoming email for a designated time during the day when I plan to read and respond, thereby keeping my inbox empty and enjoying the benefits of rule #6.

If I receive an email pertaining to taxes, I reschedule it to hit my inbox on April 1.

If my team receives an email requesting action on our part, I reschedule it to hit my inbox in 24 hours in the hopes that one of my colleagues will handle the request before I need to.

I also use the “Someday” time frame in Mailbox to randomly reschedule emails that make me smile or feel good about myself, allowing me to experience the joy of receiving that email all over again.


8. Respond to emails that require action as quickly as possible, and always within 24 hours. Failing to respond to an email – even if your response is “I’ll get back to you tomorrow” – projects the image of a person who is overwhelmed, disorganized, and inefficient.

9. Choose subjects for your emails that will allow your readers to identify the general purpose of the email without actually opening it and help you search for that email in the future.