For every person who proudly practices inbox zero, there are many who happily and enthusiastically talk about the large number of emails sitting in their inboxes. As proud as they are, I think it's safe to say that most people with huge inboxes are interested in hearing about how to pare their inboxes down, but rarely does someone who practices inbox zero ask for tips on how to go back to having thousands of emails in their inbox.
As my website name would suggest, I practice inbox zero. When I see 1,000+ emails in an inbox I equate it to having 1,000+ sheets of paper sitting in piles on a desk. That image stresses me out. It's definitely the prospect of having to find stuff in those piles that scares me most.
I completely understand that the concept of inbox zero is daunting for many people so what I am suggesting is that first we take a small step towards a more organized email account by a building a filing cabinet or repository for your correspondence. This filing cabinet is the email account folders you'll create, as you need them.
If you don't have an assistant or someone who manages your email and calendars for you my advice to you is to start small, with just two new folders. If you work primarily with projects - take your two largest projects and make a folder for each, if you work with customers - make a folder for each of your two largest clients and so on. From this day forward move every completed email to the corresponding folder.
Block one hour in the next few days to go back to January 1, 2017 and move all your completed emails (from then until now) to the correct folder(s). If you need more time, book another hour next week and finish up the task. As the days progress you will see what new folders you need, make these folders and repeat the steps above. Little by little your system will be built and as you move forward you will notice that:
When you're in your inbox you are only looking at emails you have NOT worked on, giving you a more solid overview of the work you have yet to do.
Searching for correspondence will be quicker, easier and less stressful.
Your email account's search capability will have sped up considerably because it has less to search through (both in your inbox and the designated folders).
As an added bonus, your inbox has shrunk in size.
Being organized and productive are traits that will move you forward in your career. I have yet to hear of a company looking for someone who is disorganized, mired in clutter and unable to manage their work flow.