I first encountered the concept of having a totally empty inbox through Michael Hyatt. At first, it seemed incredible. A totally empty inbox?!
But then I realized he was really on to something, because I had hundreds of emails in my various inboxes and it was quite stressful. So I took the plunge and developed my own system for getting to Zero Inbox. And I learned that there's something satisfying and soothing about having no unread emails.
Want to give it a try yourself? Here's how I do it:
Create folders to organize emails. Michael says that he just archives everything into a processed mail folder, and that's certainly one way of doing it because email services come with fairly robust search engines. Personally, I prefer to archive my email a little more categorically, so I have folders that important emails go into, and then a generic "all mail" folder for everything else.
Process all of your email when it comes in. When you're just starting out, you may have thousands of emails you need to process, and that's okay. Just set a timer and go through as many as you can in fifteen minute increments until you get through all of them. Once you've processed all of your old email, make a habit of processing email as it comes in, and act immediately on every email that takes less than two minutes to respond to (which is probably 99% of your email). Remember, the delete button is your friend, as is the catch-all archive folder. You can leave the few that require additional time in your inbox for a while, but try to act on them as soon as possible.
Limit email that comes into your inbox. The best way to maintain an empty inbox is to prevent email from reaching it in the first place. So be picky about the email lists you sign up for, and don't hesitate to use the unsubscribe link at the bottom of most commercial emails. If there are lists you need to be on but you rarely read or use the emails, see if there's a way to restrict the number and/or types of email they send out in your account profile settings - many times you can select to receive email as infrequently as monthly, or choose to receive only one type of email.
There is no one way or right way of getting to Zero Inbox. This is just how I do it. Use it as a starting point and develop your own system that works for you!