3,657. That’s the number of emails in my co-worker’s current inbox, and if you’re anything like me, this (insane) amount of email clutter will make you cringe. While working in the exciting and nebulous world of marketing over the years, I’ve noticed there are two types of people: those who leave the office at the end of the day or week with 10-40 emails left in their inbox, and those who have fallen into the Mordor-esque hole of email doom and see no return in sight. For those who have lost hope in ever fully cleaning up their inbox, I’ve written this blog for you.
We all know email causes problems for our productivity, but did you know it also causes problems for our psyche? If you have more than 500 emails in your inbox, it’s time for you to de-clutter and gain some wiggle room to actually be able to get some work done! It may take some time for this practice to become habit, but if you ever start feeling like your inbox is overtaken by messages with no return in sight, you can quickly whip it back into shape with these key tips below.
Today is the day to reclaim your inbox!
- Deal with it now.
First, you will need to start holding yourself to the “deal with it now” rule. Do this by either flagging, filing, moving, responding to or deleting an email Every. Single. Time. you check your inbox.
- Sweep it up!
You know those emails from two years ago that you think you’re still going to read? I hate to break it to you: you aren’t. Organizing a bunch of emails at the same time will help you. Set up a few new folders in your email and name them by year, quarter, month, or whatever suits you best. Then start moving items over into their categories en masse to the corresponding folder. You can do this faster by searching for a particular timeframe, such as July 2014, and moving all the emails from that month to the new folder you have created. This way all your messages are still available, but they’re no longer in your current inbox.
- Take advantage of your folders and compartmentalize.
The initial sweep takes care of messages you already have in your inbox, but what about the messages that are coming in as you read this blog? It’s time to create filters, files and/or categories to help you start automatically compartmentalizing going forward.Most of us already have different email accounts for different purposes – and if you don’t, it’s time to create some. This can help you immensely. Personally, I have three different email accounts that I check and organize daily – one for business, another for personal and one for miscellaneous messages that I receive from online shopping entities or to unlock gated content.
After you sweep and compartmentalize, it’s time to delete all the emails that you don’t really need. I understand this can be difficult, especially if you’re a nostalgic person, so if a message is that important, print it out. Otherwise, just delete it! One helpful hint for getting rid of the plethora of emails from a newsletter you never actually read is to search by name and delete all en mass.
Speaking of deleting a newsletter’s past unread emails – for this newsletter and any others you receive daily, weekly or monthly that you never actually read – it’s time to say goodbye. Unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters, sales emails, RSS feeds, etc. will help your email seem less daunting after you take a long weekend away from the office. But if you can’t seem to part ways, create a folder now and a rule within your inbox (yes, you can do this in any email server) that automatically files it away into that specific folder – never to hit your personal inbox, but always available if you want to take a peek into the Narnian newsletter world one day.
- Create automatic replies.
Now this wouldn’t work for me because I enjoy personalizing each and every one of my emails (wink, wink). But If you find yourself using the same reply repeatedly, consider creating a list of your common and frequent replies that you can copy and paste. Or, try using a tool, such as Thunderbird Quicktext, Lifehacker Texter or AutoHotkey, to help make replying to these emails even faster.
- Start a new habit.
They say it takes around 21 days to form a new habit, so why not make today the day to take back your inbox and begin a new email routine? Develop a system by setting a calendar alarm every workday for only five minutes to organize your emails before you call it quits each day. Those five minutes or less will save you hundreds of minutes down the line of trying to find “that one email Susan sent you seven months ago about that important document you must read before tomorrow’s meeting.” Trust me, by organizing your Inbox at the end of each workday and spending a few extra minutes to clean out your inbox on Friday afternoon, you’ll be ready to tackle Monday morning with fresh eyes on the most important recent messages.
Bonus: Another habit to start is deleting messages in bulk first thing every morning. Kicking off your day by deleting the clutter can help you maintain a better inbox and focus on being productive.
Don’t be a slave to your inbox! Managing your email efficiently is affected by the email server you use as well as the apps, plug-ins and features that can help solve specific problems, but mostly it’s about the system and habits you implement yourself. So, cheers to your fresh start and saying goodbye to email purgatory!
Happy sweeping! Until next time…
What are your favorite habits for keeping your Inbox tidy? Let us know in the comments or share it with us via Twitter @OutlookMktg, LinkedIn or Facebook. You can also catch up on the latest in B2B marketing and business topics here!
Author: Victoria Walden, Account Manager, Outlook Marketing Services
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