3-2-1- Zero Email Hack

3-2-1- Zero Email Hack

I wanted to share a life hack that helps me keep my email manageable in less than one hour each day (on average I receive between 150-220 emails in 24 hours). My technique is called 3-2-1-Zero and it breaks down like this:

  • 3   For a 30-minute block of time

  • 2   Twice a day 

  • 1    Read each email only once

  • Zero  Get your inbox down to zero emails (not zero unread, zero in your inbox)


Turn Off Notifications

The first step is to turn off your alerts for the rest of the time you are at your computer and on your smartphone/wearable device. Do you really need to know the second the new Pottery Barn weekly promotion drops? Why does this matter? Your mental focus and ability to get into the flow state where we are so entranced by our tasks at hand that we can be more creatives with increased productivity and solve harder problems with ease. If your alerts keep distracting you from the task you are focused on at the time, it will take longer to complete thereby prolonging your workday or worse pushing out when it will be done.


Schedule Your Success

The time that I am doing emails is in my calendar and I stick to my schedule religiously. My time is my most valuable resource and I treat it as such by putting a 30-minute block for email in the morning and a second each afternoon leaving the rest of my day open to do the things that will make the biggest impact on my happiness and productivity. I also schedule a time to do my meditations each day and physical activity to make sure my mind and body are healthy. Your calendar is one of the simplest and most effective tools in your toolbox when utilized.


Don't' Repeat Yourself

How do I read, process, and take action on an average of 200 emails a day? I read each email one time and take the required action which is always::

  • Read and delete/file the email AND

  • Take the required action to respond to the email OR

  • Delegate the necessary response OR

  • Schedule time to complete the task if it can't be done in the 30-minute window


Focus on the Task at Hand

Email is a tool to make your life more convenient, not the other way around. This technology is not something that requires your being chained to your keyboard responding during all working hours. By turning off our alerts we can be in the present moment with our focus on what we are currently doing, it could be solving a problem at work or spending time with someone, whatever you are doing deserves your undivided attention.



Most of us receive more junk mail than actionable emails so take the time to unsubscribe rather than just deleting these every time. Within a few weeks, this simple practice will reduce the overall inflow of emails daily. Don't simply delete the spam, take the 3 seconds to unsubscribe or flag it as junk so you don't have to waste your valuable time in the future. 


I used to use my inbox as a to-do list by keeping emails that I needed to respond or take action on in my inbox. This strategy, or lack of, consistently added to my mental stress every day. By incorporating the 3-2-1-Zero into my day, I have less anxiety and can focus more on that task at hand knowing that I don't feel tethered to my email.