I’ve been working at (or very close to) inbox zero for about a year now. Anything more than about 10 emails in my inbox and I get twitchy.
I also use the filter settings in Gmail to make sure my inbox only contains email I actually need to review now.
Google have a quick intro to filters here, this is how I have mine set up:
1) Any email that contains the word ‘unsubscribe’ should skip the inbox and go straight to a label called ‘newsletters’
This rule takes any email that gives me an option to unsubscribe, stops it appearing in my inbox and places it in a folder for review when I have time.
It catches all the newsletters and sales blah that I never need to see urgently and hides it until I’m ready. Obviously it’s not foolproof, but I tend to review it at least weekly so I’m never too far from an email from someone who inadvertently used my trigger word.
You should use this alongside actually clicking the unsubscribe link in those that you never read.
2) Any email logs skip the inbox and go to a label called ‘logs’
This is probably a bit specific to the IT admin part of my role. I use the same technique to archive all the various email status notifications I get of successful backups, WordPress updates, etc.
I do a bit of fine tuning on these filters to make sure logs containing errors (that I need to deal with quickly) do hit my inbox.
3) Any email receipts skip the inbox and go to archive
I like to keep a record of purchases in my archive, but I don’t need to see them when they arrive. If I need to find them in future for any reason I can just search.
Beyond these three I have a few custom rules in place to catch more specific cases, but for most cases this keeps my inbox nice and calm.