To whom it may concern:

I hope you’re staying positive and testing negative.

It’s the middle of the semester, and the mountains upon mountains of Harvard email spam are almost out of control. “When did I subscribe to this email list”, you wonder, “and why can’t I find that email my TF sent this morning?” Not to worry — you may not achieve inbox zero in one night (although this is a great project for long weekends or winter break), but these inbox cleaning tips could make your life way easier this digital semester.

Daily Housekeeping

Hint: Learn how to snooze.

--> Check your email twice a day (perhaps once in the morning and once in the evening) so that you’re not a slave to your email notifications.

--> If you see an email that you can reply to quickly, send the email immediately instead of putting it off. Signing up for mandatory office hours? Pull out your timetable and fill it out right now. For other emails, aim for a 48-hour response time to prevent build-up. Chances are, you need a break from Zoom anyway...

--> Label and archive emails that you’ll need once you’ve read them.

--> When you schedule a meeting, transfer them to your planner/Gcal ASAP.

--> Snooze emails if you really want meeting reminders. Snoozing = temporarily removing emails from your inbox and scheduling when they will come back in. For instance, if on Monday you schedule a meeting for Friday, click the clock symbol so it resurfaces in your inbox Friday morning! You’re. Welcome.)

--> Use these buttons on the side to speed up this process! (And subscribe to Harvard Today).


Handling Those Dreaded Email Lists

Three words: Filter, label, and archive.

--> House lists can be very overwhelming and may not always have relevant information; you can filter them into a separate label.

--> Unsubscribe from lists you don’t ever read emails from so you don’t have to delete things for eternity (and adjust Canvas notifications if you don’t want the daily summaries).

--> Don’t care about who’s selling MCAT textbooks? Couldn’t pay you to comp that org? Delete emails that you have read once and will never look at again.

--> Make labels for each of your courses so you can find the *few* relevant emails!

The Real Marie Kondo-ing (Even More Thorough Cleaning)

The key to inbox zero: Pace yourself, because it can be very time consuming.

--> Keep emails with research or internship opportunities you would consider, OCS emails (if you find them useful) under a label, and archive them away.

--> Keep newsletters, such as the IOP newsletters or Dean Khurana’s communications, separately (under a filter).

--> Mark the most important emails first.

--> To change things up while organizing, you could sort your emails from Oldest to Newest (and deal with those freshman year emails).


--> Delete things you don’t need, which can include those rejection letters which lack constructive feedback (trust me, it’s cathartic).

--> Don’t delete everything, though! Some of those memes you got sent in the middle of the semester will always make you smile when you revisit them.

--> Remember to change your email background (Settings > Themes) to something that makes you happy! It looks great once you have cleared out your inbox, and looking at something fresh can offer you a lot of joy, satisfaction, and motivation.

Don’t let this post stress you out if you have a messy inbox and are thriving with it; go with whatever system helps you find emails and communicate properly. These are just some suggestions to help you out in case you’re interested in cleaning your emails up. While some weeks will be crazy and emails may pile up at times, taking steps to overhaul your organization system in a realistic way will mean that it will never take that long to deal with an overflowing inbox again. Good luck!


Maya S. Bhagat