If you’re anything like me you probably get a lot of email, both work and personal.
How do you manage your inbox? DO you manage your inbox?
I can’t stand a messy inbox (Ali’s inbox drives me insane). A cluttered inbox is bad for many reasons. The biggest one is that it makes you feel overwhelmed because you have so much to do or answer.
But that’s the thing. How much of your email is actionable or requires a response?
Dealing with email is easy if you divide it into three simple categories. You need to figure out what each message is in your inbox. Those categories are:
- Something you need to do or respond to
- Something you need to hold on to for reference
Something you need to do or respond to
I use my inbox as a to-do list. When an email comes in I decide what kind of email it is. If it’s something I need to do or respond to it stays in my inbox until it’s done.
If all that is needed is a response, do it and get that item done.
What if it’s a task that you need to do? Figure out when you have the time to sit and do it, and hold yourself to that. Stay off of Reddit, Mike.
Once that task is done, or email is responded to? Archive it. Get old emails OUT of your inbox. Remember when you had to make a “happy plate” before you could have dessert after dinner? Make a “happy inbox”.
Something you need to hold on to for reference
Another beautiful thing is filters. In Gmail I have multiple filters set up. When a cell phone bill comes in, it gets labeled AT&T and is archived and marked as read immediately. My bill is the same every month and it’s on auto-pay. I don’t need to see the email, why should it come to my inbox and clutter things up and give me something extra to deal with?
Create labels for for companies and sites that send you a ton of email (the good kind of email).
Ali and I order a ton of things from Amazon (okay, it’s mostly me), so I have a filter that tags any Amazon purchase related email with an “Amazon” tag. When I need to find a tracking or order number it’s much easier to find the email.
Filters that shoot emails past my inbox into the archive box help me keep my inbox clean and reduces the time I need to maintain it.
Unsubscribe from crap. If you get flooded with newsletters and marketing emails that you don’t open or read why do you allow them to pile up in your inbox? Get rid of them!
If there isn’t an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email, use your email client to mark it as spam. Mail clients and email providers are smart. Once you start marking crap as spam it will learn and start sending crap directly to the spam folder.(Note, sometimes the spam filter gets it wrong, so be sure to check your spam folder a few times a month to make sure nothing slipped by.)
Clearing out your inbox is possible
Since I use my inbox as a to-do list, if there are more items in it, the more overwhelmed I feel and the less I want to deal with it. Deal with what needs to be dealt with. Use filters. Archive everything. Delete the crap.
Keep your inbox clean. It’ll make sitting down at your computer much more enjoyable.