Is your email inbox like mine? If I don’t pay attention to mine on a regular basis (meaning every 12 minutes), it somehow seeks revenge and its contents multiply faster than the hangers in my closet.
Since I don’t want to spend my day babysitting the inbox, I’ve developed a few strategies. They allow me to handle urgent emails quickly and the rest of them on a schedule that’s convenient for me. It’s also cut the time it takes me to go through my email inbox each morning and afternoon by more than half.
Delete unnecessary email without opening it.
When I open my inbox and it looks like the entire contents of the internet have been deposited there, I go down the list of emails and delete everything I don’t need to read. All the ads, all the misdirected spam, all the automated notifications that I really am not interested in. I even delete the notices from my blogs that tell me I have comments (I’m going to visit them anyway and I can see and read the comments then). Then I prioritize what’s left. Important things I need to read now get a star. If I have time left after reading the starred emails, I start on the rest. Otherwise, they wait until I have time.
Do you really need all those notifications? I set nearly all of my social media to send me either specific notifications or none at all. For example, the only email I get from Facebook are major notifications (like a new sign-in). I know I’ll sign in pretty much every day and I’ll see anything else relevant then. My LinkedIn groups come in weekly digests, except conversations I’m actually participating in and other notifications I can log in to LinkedIn to see. And I finally got smart and told my blogs to quit telling me I have comments.
For blogs I’m subscribed to, only my most read ones come to the inbox. If I find I’m deleting more than I’m reading, I change my subscription settings or unsubscribe all together.
Use filters and folders.
I have my email set up to automatically filter certain subjects and senders into folders. For example, essential social media notifications, emails from groups I am subscribed to and blog subscriptions all go to their own folders as soon as they arrive in my email. They are almost never urgent and can be looked at when I have time. Removing them from my inbox reduces the clutter. It also makes it easier for me to find the important emails that need to be dealt with. When I do get to those non-urgent missives, I can deal with them more efficiently because they are generally all related subjects, allowing me to focus on one subject at a time.
Deal with it when you open it.
Once you open an email, deal with it. If it’s something that requires further action at a later time on your part, create a folder for that and move the email there. Put a reminder on your calendar if it’s time sensitive. If it involves an appointment or meeting, copy the relevant information into the appropriate calendar entry and then delete the email (I use Gmail and Google Calendar & use the big text box to copy any related information so when I am reviewing my calendar, everything I need to know is right there) .
If it requires a response, type it up immediately and send it off. And remember, with email brief and to the point makes both the sender’s and the receiver’s life easier. If you’re an email keeper, use folders to organize emails by subject or project and get them out of the inbox. I have folders for my current jobs so I can see ongoing correspondence by itself and at a glance.
If the email contains a link to something I need to see, I will click through and move on. Once I’ve gone through my emails, I then go back and decide what’s worth watching or reading.
By removing emails from your inbox as you go, you can keep it uncluttered. And you can more easily see what’s really important and reducing the stress that having too many emails can induce.
How do you keep your Email under control? Share your best tips here.