Out of sight, out of mind. That’s why it’s easy to ignore the clutter in your email inbox when you set time aside for spring-cleaning. However, it’s not long until you log back into your email account and that feeling of being overwhelmed makes a triumphant return. How do you tackle inbox clutter? You conquer this mountain the same way you do other organization tasks; you make a plan and stick to it.
Of the hundreds of emails you receive within a week, how many of them do you actually read? Many times, inbox clutter happens because of newsletters that you once subscribed to but no longer need. “Instead of deleting them, take the time to actually unsubscribe,” recommends Nicole Graham. “All newsletter type emails should have an ‘unsubscribe’ option at the end.” When you unsubscribe, those emails will stop coming into your inbox and you no longer have to deal with them.
Social media alerts are another source of inbox clutter that you can opt out of. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites send you an email anytime there’s activity you might be interested in. According to Never Mind the Bus Pass, “These emails clutter your inbox and make it hard to scan through emails – and with Facebook, you’ll get the notifications when you log in anyway.”
Set up Filters
Email providers know their clients can feel overwhelmed, so many of them created an option to allow users to automatically filter their emails. “Instead of having all your emails sitting in your inbox, have your email system automatically move each email to (a) relevant folder,” writes Graham, “This is particularly great for emails that are more for reading or research (such as newsletters). If you’re using Outlook or Mac Mail, this feature is known as rules. If you’re working out of Gmail, then it’s called filters.”
If you have Gmail, Forbes recommends you look into utilizing their priority inbox. “Priority Inbox puts new emails in two different places within your inbox — one for ones it considers important, and another for ones it considers unimportant, based on the sender and subject line,” writes Stephanie Kaplan. “Now, even though I might have 90+ new emails when I come into the office in the morning, I can immediately see the 12 that need my attention, rather than getting lost in a sea of daily deal offers and cat slideshows until lunch.”
Organize Your Messages
To keep your email messages organized, take advantage of free email services and open multiple accounts. You can have an account for work, an account for friends and family, and an account for newsletters or coupons. Mobile devices make it easy to manage multiple email accounts, and, according to Jonathan Lloyd, “You are far more likely to be distracted and open e-mails from family members and friends during work hours.”
As you sort through the emails in your inbox, ask yourself what needs to be done with each one. “People often leave emails in their inbox to remind them to do something — to make a call, start a project, or to follow up with someone,” according to Kaplan. “Instead of taking up valuable inbox space with emails you have already read, schedule these to-dos in your calendar to remind yourself that way. If you’ve been meaning to call to make an appointment somewhere but the place doesn’t open until Tuesday, create an event in your calendar for Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. as a reminder, rather than leaving the related email in your inbox (which you might not even see on Tuesday anyway).”
When cleaning out your home, you can take additional clutter to your self-storage unit. Use that same way of thinking when you’re cleaning out your inbox. Get rid of what you don’t need, sort those emails that get in the way, and then create a plan for the emails that are left. Taking the time to make this a habit will help ensure your inbox stays clutter-free.