While some are content to let their email run in the hundreds of unread emails, I’m not one of them – there’s nothing more anxiety-inducing than a neglected inbox.
If you’ve ever felt deep despair in the pit of your being whenever you log into your email, I see you. I’ve been you.
Let me help.
1. Why do you need to declutter your inbox?
Are you on the fence? Though really, how can you even be on the wall when we’re talking about your inbox here?
You don’t have a reason not to declutter your inbox. Your inbox is your primary communication tool on any job (even labour-intensive jobs), and it’s high opportunity to do it to its most grown potential.
No more mornings spent weeding out the newest emails and trying to stay on top of threads. Yes, you might baulk, cause it’s a big project, but so worth it in the end.
i. Boost your productivity
Productivity is all about achieving the most in the least amount of time. Its time management is done correctly, and answering email is not a productive way to spend your workday.
I’ve often opened my inbox at work ‘to check on a few things’ and spent two hours trying to put out fires and getting lost in rabbit holes. The tidier your inbox, the more work you’ll be able to clear, especially if you add a little bit of automation.
ii. Keep up with important messages.
I have to confess – I had a hard time replying to emails in time back when my inbox was a mess. I had a wall of emails (hundreds upon hundreds of unread emails), and I’d have a mini heart attack anytime I’d open it.
In the chaos, it’s easy to miss important messages. In any job, there are time-sensitive emails that deserve to be prioritized. An organized inbox sharpens your focus and efficiency.
2. The best practices to manage your inbox.
With a little push and some creative organizational tips, you too can achieve the elusive inbox zero – a feat that not many have accomplished and maintained. I’m a minimalist by heart.
I can’t imagine a life where I’ve more than ten emails in my primary inbox, and even that’s too many. Certainly not unread.
Don’t you know where to get started? Consider these few strategies to bring order to your inbox.
i. Subscribe with caution
The number-one cause for a cluttered inbox is a lax attitude towards subscriptions. You might have signed up for free content websites, but then receive updates you don’t care for and do nothing about it.
Or you’re genuinely interested in receiving a newsletter, but you find that the site abuses its posting frequency. Weigh whether a newsletter is worth acquiring and what websites you can subscribe to via RSS to make your life easier.
ii. Set rules and filters
Embrace filters and colour-coding. The minutes you spend on setting up filters pale compared to the convenience and time you save once you put your system to use.
Use filters or rules either in your email client such as Gmail or within your RSS tool like Inoreader. Both will allow you some powerful automation to directly archive emails containing specific keywords, such as to sleep emails later. Group emails by project, by the sender, by topic.
Mark what’s essential, so you know to return to it as soon as possible. A creative way to apply filters is also by the level of difficulty. Do you need more time with a work email? Do you need to automatically forward to someone else? Filters are the answer.
iii. Integrate your inbox with RSS feeder
RSS declutters your inbox from newsletter subscriptions, which are enemy number one in reaching inbox zero. Even when you’ve culled your subscriptions, there’s still going to be a steady stream of newsletters that clog your inbox and distract you from important, time-sensitive messages.
iv. Separate personal and professional accounts
The most serious mistake I made at the start of my career was to use my email for work-related matters. If you’re an employee at a medium-sized or big company, you’re most likely to get your in-company account.
But in case you don’t, keep your personal and professional lives separate – freelancers, this goes double for you. Divide and should be your motto, because fewer emails in both accounts mean an easier time managing your inbox at work.
v. Automate whenever possible
Marketers have adopted email automation to expedite communication with customers and target them with personalized content. What you probably don’t know is that you can apply some simple automation tricks to make your day-to-day less hectic.
Unburden yourself from the menial tasks of sorting and labelling. Gmail gives users the flexibility to automatically apply filters to emails containing specific keywords, forward emails and create pre-canned responses.
vi. Set up reply templates
If your work involves answering emails steadily throughout the day, you waste unnecessary time typing up the same phrases over and over again.
Even signing an email takes seconds and that time accumulates as you answer the next email and the next. Fix an email signature that’s automatically generated at the bottom of all emails.
Prepare a few go-to templates, which you can easily modify and save yourself hours in the long-run. A bonus – you spare your fingers additional stress.
vii. Archive as you go
I wouldn’t say I like the sight of more than a page of email and neither should you. Once a conversation’s come to its natural conclusion, archive it. The best practice I can offer is to archive as you go, but if you’re skittish about archiving straight away, archive your inbox every three months or so.
Aside from an empty inbox, you also save only the emails that matter to you most so that searching for them even through filters won’t consume as much time. Every chance at trimming down should be taken.
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