Inbox Zero Outlook: Tips & Tricks To Get Organized With Ease

There are two types of people in this world. There are those who are like email hoarders, saving every Microsoft Outlook email they receive. And there are those who start every day with an empty inbox as part of the Inbox Zero Outlook method.

The goal of bringing your inbox to zero every day in Outlook is common among people who often can become overwhelmed by piles of emails. For some people, an inbox cluttered with email is stress inducing. If you are one of those people, there are a number of things you can do to achieve Inbox Zero Outlook.

The average worker receives more than 120 emails each day. That is a lot of distractions on top of the tasks you already must complete each day.

Microsoft Outlook is a powerful tool that can do more than display, send and receive email. It can help you organize, sort and manage your emails in an orderly and efficient way, giving you peace of mind. Inbox Zero Outlook is a method designed to help handle large volumes of email in a short period, reducing demands on time and attention.

All you need to do is tap into that impressive power and let Outlook do the work for you. Try these easy steps if you want to master Inbox Zero Outlook.

Create an Email Storage System

One of the main reasons that the Outlook inbox becomes full in a short period of time is because users store emails there. The inbox is an entry point, a place where communication first comes to you in Outlook. Once it arrives, it is up to you to act on it.

Sometimes you can read an email and then delete it. Other times you want to keep the email. But instead of letting those emails pille up in your inbox, you should create a storage system. Create a system to store your emails in different folders, a system that make sense for you so that it is easy to use.

You can create separate folders based on the sender name, or subject matter, or project. Whatever system helps you consolidate and distribute emails you want to save, that’s the one you should adopt. You can even split folders down the road if they become too bulky for your sensibilities.

Microsoft Outlook is based on a system of folders. Your Outlook Calendar is just another folder. So don’t worry about setting up a bunch of new folders, just be certain those folders are helpful to you.

Once you have your folders set up, you will be able to separate your incoming email into the appropriate folders. That means you won’t keep them all lumped together in the inbox. This is the first step toward Inbox Zero Outlook.

How to setup an email folder

  • Right-click on your email account’s name.
  • Click New Folder in the dropdown menu.
  • Name your new folder and press Enter.
  • Move emails into new folder by clicking, holding and dragging it to the folder.

Take Advantage of To-Dos and Tasks

The whole point of clearing out your inbox is to take the necessary action required by the emails that you receive. Maybe it is just a matter of replaying or maybe there are certain actions you must take. Before you file that email away into its newly created folder, consider these steps as part of your Inbox Zero Outlook.

  • Reply immediately to the email and then move it to If you can take care of something quickly, then do so. After you Reply, then move on to the filing process.
  • Reply later, and make sure you set up a To-Do reminder so you don’t forget to reply. You can identify a message requiring followup by right-clicking on it and choosing a time to respond from the menu for Follow Up. After you set the reminder, then move on to the filing process.
  • Reply after performing work prompted by the email, using the Task function in Outlook to help you organize your work. Drag the email to the Task pane button, set the date of your deadline and the necessary reminders. Then click Save & Close, moving on to the filing process after the Task is created.

Establish Quick Steps

Another tool that helps you achieve Inbox Zero Outlook is Quick Steps. This is a powerful way to organize your email by establishing a process once and using it later when needed on emails. After you set up the process in Quick Steps, you can click on the email and then select that Quick Step to manage it.

You can even develop a way to organize multiple Quick Steps to manage them. Use the More button (the downward arrow with a line across the top) in the ribbon to display all of the Quick Steps that you have saved. The Manage Quick Steps button also is helpful in keeping a large number of setps in a reasonable order.

How to set up and apply Quick Step

  • Choose the email you want to apply Quick Step to and click it.
  • Click the Home tab > Quick Steps group > More button > Create New button.
  • Enter a name that describes the Quick Step.
  • Choose Move to folder from the Choose an Action dropdown.
  • Choose the folder from the Choose folder dropdown.
  • Click Finish.
  • Apply Quick Step by clicking on the email you want it to apply to.
  • Cick on the Quick Step you want to apply in the Home tab > Quick Steps group.

Create Rules to Help Achieve Inbox Zero Outlook

There are ways to begin organizing emails before they even make it to your inbox. Microsoft Outlook offers a Rule function that applies certain predetermined actions for a type of email. The Rule function performs the prescribed action when Outlook receives the email.

This is a powerful tool to help continue managing your inbox as part of the Inbox Zero Outlook goal. Instead of cluttering up your inbox, the action is taken that is assigned to the type of email. Those actions can be filing the email in a folder that you created, deleting it or setting up a reminder.

How to create a rule

  • Select the email that you want a rule to apply to and click it.
  • Click the Home tab > Move group > Rules button > Create Rule from the dropdown menu.
  • Open the Rules Wizard by clicking Advanced Options in the Create Rule dialog box.
  • Choose among the multipe conditionss you want to check.
  • Click any hyperlinked/underlined words to change or set them. Once you enter a word in the Search Text dialog box, press Add before you click OK.
  • Click Next at the bottom of the Rules Wizard.
  • Choose the things you want to do with the message in the next window, including Move it, Delete it, and Set reminder.
  • Click any hyperlinked/underlined words to change or set them.
  • Click Next at the bottom of the Rules Wizard.
  • Identify any exceptions to the rule, such as exclusing emails from certain people from this rule.
  • Click any hyperlinked/underlined words to change or set them.
  • Click Next at the bottom of the Rules Wizard.
  • Create a name for the Rule.
  • Place check marks beside Run this rule now to turn on the new rule.
  • Click Finish.

Once you have created the Rules, you should not have to run them again after this because they are saved into Outlook. Be careful not to create overly broad or vague rules that might effect emails that you did not intend to include in the rule.

Don’t Be Afraid to Use the Delete Button

As noted earlier, one of the main reasons that inboxes pile up with emails is because users are hoarding them. The fear of deleting an important email can paralyze some people to the point where they never clean out their inbox. You must learn not to be afraid to use the delete button in the Inbox Zero Outlook method.

Once you have created folders to organize emails and rules to manage them, you must be brutal about deleting. Even if you mistakenly delete an email you intended to keep, you have weeks to retrieve it from the trash and restore it. Not every email you receive must be saved, so immediately delete those that you know are not necessary to store.

A more deliberate effort to delete unneeded emails will help you reduce clutter and focus on emails that you should keep. If you have wondered “how I get to zero inbox in Outlook 365”, this is one of the important steps to that goal. It is one of the many Outlook tricks you can use to stay organized.

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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