You know the feeling you get when you open your email and see hundreds of messages in your inbox? Yep. Me too. Blahhh! Do you try to delete and sort through them only to end up down a rabbit hole of dealing with the content instead of actually deleting and organizing them? It’s a challenge to have a clutter free inbox.
We often try to delete unnecessary emails, sort and organize, unsubscribe and address any urgent email issues…all at the same time. Then we end up throwing our hands up in frustration and giving up. No wonder! It’s just way too much to tackle at once. So how can you get control of a cluttered inbox? Here are my 5 steps to a clutter-free inbox.
Unsubscribe and Delete In One Swoop
Unsubscribe from every single email list you are on that you don’t read regularly. I recommend doing this first because your email accumulation rate will decrease significantly. The less you have coming in, the simpler your life becomes. What’s the best way to do this? You have a few options. There are apps like Unroll Me and Clean Email that work well. I prefer to do it myself. And if you are pretty familiar with the lists you see pop up in your email feed every day, here is the most efficient method I’ve found:
I’ll use myself as an example. I get tons of emails from Frontgate, Pottery Barn, AutoCAD, Mailchimp, etc. every single day.
- Choose one of these and do an email search for it. For example, I could search all of my email for “Pottery Barn.” All of those Pottery Barn emails will pop up.
- Open one of these emails and scroll down to the bottom to unsubscribe. Once you do this, you shouldn’t have more emails from that source coming in. Next, use the “select all” feature and delete all of these Pottery Barn emails at once.
- Go through this process for all of the lists that show up often in your inbox. You won’t remember all of them. So going forward, as you see a new one pop up, just repeat this process for that particular sender.
Keep or Trash the Rest
Next, go through your remaining inbox and delete ALL unnecessary or outdated emails. This is where most of us get off track. You will be tempted to open an email to see if it can be deleted and then get distracted by trying to respond to it or deciding where it should go or how to categorize it. Don’t do it!!! The ONLY decision you are making with this step is “keep” or “trash”. That’s it. Keep email where it is or delete it. That’s your only decision for this step.
Create Folders for Reference Emails
Finally, organize the emails you need to keep. I recommend ONLY keeping emails in your inbox that require a response. After you respond, delete them or file them in an appropriate folder for reference.
Create email folders customized to your needs and use these to file all the emails you may need to reference in the future. Remember, you are not filing any email that needs a response.
Resist the urge to create too many folders. Keep it as simple and as straightforward as possible.
Schedule Daily Email Check Times
Set up specific blocks of time during the day to check your email. Now that your inbox only contains the messages you need to respond to, it won’t seem so overwhelming.
Check your email during these defined blocks of time and attend to anything that can be completed in 5 minutes. Then delete it or file for reference as applicable. For messages that require more time, leave them in your inbox if they require a response. Then delete them, or file them in the appropriate reference folder.
Schedule a Weekly Email Response Time
Set up a specific time each week to respond to all remaining inbox emails. Then either delete them or file them in a reference folder. Once you have this system up and running, maintaining it will be easy. Stick to your daily scheduled blocks to check email and your weekly scheduled blocks to respond to your remaining inbox messages. You’ll have a clutter free inbox in no time!
I think you’ll find the time spent going through this process will far outweigh the time you spend searching through old emails, losing important emails and worrying that you’re missing something important. Less email clutter = less mental clutter!
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