Getting Inbox Zero’d: How and Why to Archive in Gmail

This post is part of my Getting Inbox Zero’d series that will provide all the tools and nitty gritty details necessary to get right if you truly want to hit inbox zero.

Since showing is ten times better than explaining, this series will be captured on YouTube with the most important points from the transcript included below.

Bottom line: Please watch the video first — it has everything you need all baked right in.



Reasons why you should archive:

  1. SEARCH. With Gmail or Outlook (I’ll explain Outlook at the end), you can search and retrieve any email you might ever need — no reason to keep them in your inbox.
  2. CLARITY. When you archive emails that no longer require action, only the emails that require action remain in your inbox — making it very easy to see what emails you have left to action or respond to. To further illustrate, would you keep paper copies of bills that you have already paid lying around? In the same fashion, you should also archive emails that serve no value lying around cluttering up your inbox.
  3. ACTION ITEMS. Finally, if you use your inbox as a to-do list (which by the way is a terrible idea — go to to find out out why), but if you use your inbox as to-do list, this will leave only action items in your inbox.


Inbox: This is where all of your email lands — and if you do nothing with it — this is where your email stays.

All Mail: This is also where all of your email lands. The only way to remove email from your All Mail is to delete it, and unless it’s junk mail or a large file that you no longer need, there is no reason to ever delete emails.

Archive: The word archive is a verb. When you archive an email you are simply removing the Inbox tag. When you remove the inbox tag, the email then only appears in your All Mail or of course, when you search for the email from your inbox (remember, search is generally always the easiest way to find old emails — the days of folders and categorizing are long gone).

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