Your inbox can be a scary place, you turn your attention from it for a minute and suddenly it’s bursting at the seams. Unless you are ruthless with unsubscribing or your email address is under lock and key, then I bet you get a wide range of emails. Most of those not needing any kind of immediate attention.
For me, the inbox can create a good amount of anxiety with it’s never ending flow of incoming email. One thing you should know about me, I’m an information hoarder, full on going to admit that, right here, right now. I don’t want to unsubscribe to all the newsletter because I might miss something. And I do USE those emails to get some great nuggets of information that I often use to fill up my Pinterest and Twitter schedules. It’s not all FOMO.
I’m going to share with you how I tamed my email inbox, kept my information hoarding self-happy, and made myself more efficient.
How Cleaning Up Your Mailbox Makes You More Productive
Email is one of those tools that serves a very specific purpose, but also is a place a lot of time can be wasted and we tend to use it to fill up moments. Every time you go to your inbox in a “bored” moment or without intent you are wasting time. Never view an email without intending to act upon it. Now I know there will be an exception, say you are waiting on something from a client or when you get an email from a client and then you realize it’s not urgent. However, 99% of the time when you go to check your email, go into your inbox with intention. Don’t just open emails, skim, and then do nothing with those emails.
You need to set up a system. Every time you enter your inbox you need to delete, move it to a folder, or reply. By following this rule you are already increasing your productivity.
Another advantage of cleaning up your inbox is that you can more easily find emails that actually need a response! No more searching for the important emails.
How To Get Started
An easy solution to really clean up your inbox is to take yourself off ALL the lists. I do unsubscribe from newsletters here and there, honestly, daily emails mostly do not work for me and eventually I get tired of deleting so many from one source and will have to hit the kill switch (sorry daily emailers)! There are many people I don’t want to kick out of my inbox, but I don’t necessarily want to take the time on a daily basis to read the information they are sending.
Here enters the fabulous feature of filters, (cue choir singing). This will keep your inbox SO much less overwhelming by filing those less important emails to nice neat folders you can address when you see fit. Now if you implement this system it does require you to actually make space in your schedule to check said folders, do not dump and ignore! Otherwise, do yourself a favor and just unsubscribe.
Filtering your newsletters into folders can help make sure that you are tackling those emails when you are in a space to learn and/or possibly share. Same goes with other social media notifications or other non-actionable emails. By only touching an email once, you are saving time.
How To Set Up Filters
Set-up a label system. While Google calls them labels I think of them as folders. The folders are alphabetically sorted. If you want the folder to show higher in the list add a * or other special character or number. I encourage you to think about how you want to use these folders and the purpose they serve you. For example, I have a folder set up for social media, sub-folders for notifications from Twitter, and another sub-folder for Pinterest. That way I can engage with these notifications at set intervals per day or per week. Same with newsletters, two subfolders one for weekly checking the other for bi-weekly checking. When setting up this system, I can not stress to you the importance on working into your routine a time to check these folders. DO NOT SET IT AND FORGET IT.
Go to your inbox and start filtering.
Click an email, go to the upper-right hand corner and “filter messages like this”
Choose the options of how you want these emails to be filtered. Most of the time it is easiest to use the “From” field, but you have a ton of choices. Keep in mind if you communicate with this person outside their newsletter and the filter utilizes their main email, then that email will end up filtered. Pay attention to what the “from field” is populated with.
Go to “Create Filter With This Search” at the bottom of the dialog box.
Check “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)”. If you don’t want it to show in your inbox, you must click skip inbox.
Check “Apply The Label” and choose the folder you want it to be deposited in (or create a new label).
Check bottom dialog next to the Create Filter Button to see if there are existing emails to apply the filter to. Check this box to clean up any existing emails that fit this filter.
YAY you are on your way to a cleaner email inbox!!!
If you want to edit a filter at any time, simply go to your gmail “Settings” and go to the tab “Filters and Blocked Addresses”.
By cleaning up your inbox you will be more efficient with your time and respond faster to emails that matter.
For The Non-Gmail User
While this post focused on how to filter emails in gmail, I am sure your chosen email program can filter emails. It just might take you a minute to figure it out, but do you know the best place to start? The HELP menu!! So many people ignore the program’s own help menus, but they are a great starting place. I can’t tell you the number of people I’ve worked with (in my prior 9-5) that would come to me complaining I can’t figure out how to “______” and they look at me like I’m a genius because figure it out in a minute by using the help menu. Most people forget the most obvious solution.
Recap: Steps To Tame That Inbox
- Never touch an email without deleting, replying, or possibly filing.
- Set up a labeling (folder) system and filter emails accordingly.
- Incorporate intentional email reading. Set your schedule for checking and dealing with filtered emails and your inbox.
Is your inbox tame or out of control?