Me and my paper inbox

How I Keep My Inboxes Empty

Duncan Riach
12 min readAug 29, 2021


Having an empty inbox, or achieving “inbox zero” as some people refer to it, seems to be a holy grail, a mythical situation that is unattainable in the real world, a hypothetical freedom only enjoyable by gods who spend their days toying with platonic solids whilst draped in white muslin; personally, I reserve that luxury for the weekends.

I’m here to bring you the good news that not only is getting to inbox zero possible, the path to this Shangri-la is mind-bogglingly simple. But, like many of the very best things in life, whilst attainment and maintenance of inbox zero is simple, it’s not that easy.

What makes having an empty inbox challenging is not that it requires some complex process, or even oodles of time (it can be attained in mere minutes). What jams a spanner in the spokes, what gums the gears, what curdles the cream, is our own relationship with disorganization, our numbness and complacency in the face of overwhelming anxiety, our familiarity with fragmented focus.

For many of us, we don’t get our inboxes empty because to do so would mean losing an important part of our identity, an old part, the child part, the part that perhaps grew up in chaos and confusion. Unconsciously, letting go of anxiety can mean letting go of the familiar, even if it doesn’t serve us anymore. On some level, you know that you survived chaos, so chaos becomes an automatic prerequisite for survival.

But it doesn’t have to be this way, and I’m here to show you, via my journey, how the out-of-control inbox can be transcended, how you can take charge, and how email can be made useful again. Once we’re done here, and once you then implement what I’m going to show you, and make it into a habit, looking at your inbox will no longer make your heart sink. Dealing with email, or paper mail, will become an enjoyable and easy process.

In three months time, you will find yourself looking back and feeling the freedom I’m going to describe here. That future version of you is feeling grateful already, and will return to hit the clap button even more times for this fabulous story.

But first, let me tell you a little about my struggle.

I’ve been trying to get, and keep, my inboxes empty since 2001, which is almost 20 years ago. So I’m an old hand at this…



Duncan Riach

Top Writer. Self-Revealing. Mental Health. Success. Fulfillment. Flow. MS Engineering/Technology. PhD Psychology.