The two secrets of keeping my inbox controlled since my New Year’s Resolution

About eight months ago, I declared email bankruptcy.

I cleaned 14,603 messages out of my Gmail account. I also got rid of 2,216 messages at work. (Well, that was how many I got rid of that were unread.) I wrote this post about what I did and how I did it.

People were interested in this. Months later, I still had people tagging me as they proudly proclaimed they got their inbox to zero. They felt great. I felt great for helping them.

But what about my own inboxes? After these months, was I still keeping up with the clean slate I created in January?

At this moment, I have a total of four emails needing attention in my two accounts.

What have I learned? How have I been able to do this after utter failure?


Well, sending less email, unsubscribing from everything, and using your phone certainly help. I shared all my tips right here.

But there is some meta-learning here, too. I don’t go from 20,000 messages piled on me to four without something changing deep inside me, right?

The two secrets of keeping my inbox controlled?


Be more selfish.
Be less arrogant.

(Click here to tweet these secrets.)

These sound contradictory, I know. But hear me out.

I needed to be more selfish with my time. I found that I liked being free from email. I enjoyed the feeling of clearing the decks. I had to value my time and peace of mind more than I valued analyzing every email carefully.

And I needed to be less arrogant. Do you know what people said when I ditched those 20,000 emails? Nothing. Nobody really cared. Nobody even really noticed. All the anxiety I had—about letting people down, about not being a good coworker, about not replying to a friend—was for naught. The angst was pointless. I was arrogant. I thought everyone needed replies, was waiting for me. Nope.

So if you’re buried by email and unhappy, clear the decks.

The sun’s about to rise.


If you need help with Gmail in particular, Mailbox has just released a Mac version (currently in beta). I’m loving it. If you want to get access, I have three “bitcoins” (access codes) for the first three comments with a brief story or tip about email management.

And thanks to my friend Bryce Ashlin-Mayo for the tip about the Mac version!

  • Tyler Allred

    I want a bitcoin! I’ve been using Mailbox since I read your last post! My tip is to use the “save for later” strategically- instead of taking time to create a separate reminder in another app I just have the email circle back in time to remind me… It works great!

    • Adam Jeske

      Woot! Your bitcoin is on its way.

  • Joe Riffe

    I love Mailbox! Have you tried https://unroll.me/? It helps you unsubscribe from things, plus puts the subscriptions you still want into one, daily email. Combination of Mailbox and unroll.me have really been helpful for me.

    • Adam Jeske

      Yes, I have used unroll.me, too. Sending the bitcoin now!