If you have ever felt clueless or helpless whenever you open your email inbox, then this is for you. If you have kept procrastinating or dreaded how to get your inbox in order, then this is for you! I was once in a situation where my mail box had more than 17,000 emails and it filled up by 100s or more every day. I HAD to clean it up. I kept procrastinating until it was too much. So I decided I will slug it out one hr every day for next 5 days and hopefully get this to more manageable level.
By the way, a simple Google search for “tips to clean your email inbox” throws up quite a few articles on how to get them done. I went through many of them after I had finished tackling my email clutter menace to see how others attacked this and is there anything I could learn and adapt to my situation in future. I did find few methods more efficient than mine and few where my approach seemed better. So I decided I will write this post to help other people out who are overwhelmed with their inboxes.
Before we get into the process, let me tell you, if you haven’t done this before & it’s your first attempt in getting back control of your inbox, don’t aim to get to zero. That’s seriously ambitious and frankly unrealistic; because you start to get this overwhelming sense of doom a minute into the thing. And that probably would scare you to move ahead in your resolve. And I guess for many that’s the point where you give it up and procrastinate feels better. But worry not, there is a reason why they say, “A thousand mile journey begins with a step”. If you want to start afresh and see a zero in that bracket against “Inbox”, you could just easily select all emails, delete them and then empty your bin. Poof! Your inbox is empty and new! Nirvana. Clean Slate.
But often, that’s not the case for the majority. Everyone has those important mails that they need to have it stored/archived as reference so they can be pulled out when needed. So a more realistic aim is having a clutter free inbox which helps you get the most out of having an active email id on a day to day basis. And this is best achieved with having multiple passes at your email inbox. Once you filter off the clutter and throw it out, tackle what remains according to your requirement and keep it organized. This way you are set for life. Though, this looks like lot of work, I promise, it’s only the initial push, the extra effort needed to reach a tipping point. Once it’s past that, you just need to have some tweaks here and there to keep it running smooth and find the joy in getting back the control of your inbox and your life!
Onto the process!
The crux of it is basically Filter, Label, Decide, Miscellaneous
Filter: You take first few minutes to just skim through your email inbox and figure out repetitive words in email subject lines and the from ‘email ids’ This will help you build a filter for those high volume mails that you can quickly tackle and have a small win immediately to start feeling like you already are in control. (To know how to create filters in Gmail, go read this link)
Label: Next step is to simple label them appropriately. Creating a label helps you keep your inbox organised. You can have as many labels as you want. You can nest them under each other as you like. The best way to extract value from this is to have a very exhaustive and logical labeling mechanism. That way looking at the label you know exactly what the emails would contain.
Decide: If you have done the above you two steps correctly, I assume, bulk of the emails in your inbox would now be more distributed across various labels. If not, go back and create more filters and labels or just continue to be with me and wing it. Now is the time to take the decisions. Click on the label and now decide what you want to do with the emails associated with it. Archive, Read, Delete, Keep for later reading? If your labeling was exhaustive your decision making here should be easier and you don’t need to be worried and you can be brutal, if not then you would be having a bit hard time, contemplating on each label. The efficiency depends on you.
Miscellaneous: If you are through the previous step, your inbox would already be trimmed by quite a lot. Now is the time to review your steps and figure out if you already have a set decisions for some types of emails. Update your filters with that decision making capability right at the start! Don’t even let them reach your email inboxes. Example of such would be subscriptions, newsletters and such.
Bonus Tip: Never click on unsubscribe on the emails that you don’t want to get emails from. It just provides the email senders a confirmation of your email being active and that just inviting more emails from other similar senders. Not everyone is as bad. There are good websites, which will unsubscribe and stop bothering you with more emails, but the effort of unsubscribing and finding out which ones are those will stop, doesn’t justify going that route since the ones that would just send you more emails offsets the gain. Solution? Create a filter for emails from these ‘email ids’ and set to spam and/or delete right away. They would keep sending emails, you will never get them in your inbox to clutter it and they never get the confirmation of your inbox being active. So they would stop sending it to your email id.
That’s pretty much about it. Using this method, today my mailbox is 700+ emails, most of them read organized into pretty labels & archived for future usage if required. If you want to know how to be email ninja, the master of your own email box, then this post was for you. I have purposefully kept it short. If something doesn’t make sense, do let me know in comments section. If this helped you tackle your clutter menace or not, do let me know. If something else worked for you, don’t forget to share them as well! After all, learning from each other would make us all move ahead!