Email. The communication tool of the 21st century. A wonder of modern technology. As true as that is...it’s not exactly what’s going through my mind when I see those 1,139 unread emails in my inbox.
We hear it from our users all the time: ‘’I can't keep up with all these emails’’, ‘’My inbox is so cluttered that I always miss important messages’’. Communication will never run smoothly if you’re pulling your hair out looking at the mess that is your inbox.
Let's talk about how we can avoid email bottlenecks to keep your inbox running smoothly instead of dragging you down.
YOUR INBOX SHOULD BE MORE EXCLUSIVE THAN BERGHAIN
We all get a ton of emails everyday, no matter what job we do… but how many of them are actually important? That super interesting medical journal/art history/fishing newsletter you signed up to two years ago? The one you’re yet to open a single email for? Yeah, you should probably unsubscribe from that.
If you’re anything like me, I’m willing to bet that a lot of your inbox clutter is useless subscriptions, desperate marketing spam (I’m looking at you, SHEIN), Gitlab notifications, calendar invites…and somewhere in between all that is an email from your boss asking if you want a pay rise and a relocation to the Bahamas. Which you missed.
This junk builds up little-by-little but surprisingly quickly (I went from inbox zero to inbox hell in like 2 weeks)—but don’t worry! You can take control!
Time to Marie Kondo your 💩 once and for all...
- Even though there’s apparently a folder called “spam”, the automatic spam filter isn’t perfect and stuff does get through sometimes. Take a moment to check and make sure everything is being filtered out correctly, and if you catch something mark it.
- If you signed up to a newsletter or website that sends way too many emails, then it’s time to unsubscribe. Open that email and deep at the bottom (probably size 3 font, white text on white background) you’ll see the unsubscribe button. The goal is to be ruthless here. Does this newsletter spark joy? Do I actually read this?
Same goes for notifications. This can be a tricky one—I dread to imagine the amount of meetings I would have missed and comments I would have ignored if Google Calendar and Gitlab didn’t email me—but you have to draw the line somewhere. A filter to automatically label these as calendar invites (which still gives you a notification) is a great way to keep your main inbox cleaner—just go to the label folder on the left every once in a while, select them all and archive them in one click. Here’s a tip from Google to get rid of calendar invites.
Important: Don’t choose ‘Skip the inbox’ unless you don’t want notifications.
Let’s not forget Inbox Zero—the zen approach to keeping your inbox beautiful and organized. It takes some discipline to keep this up, but it feels great when you do.
There’s a ton of information about this elsewhere but I’m going to give you one tip to get started.
- Go to your inbox.
- Tick that box to select all your emails.
- Smash that archive button.
- Pray there wasn’t a super important email in the pile.
There you go! Inbox Zero! Go smugly tweet about it. See how long you last before you’re at 1000+ unread emails again.
GET TO THE POINT
Getting rid of the spam from your inbox is one thing, but what do you do when the spam is coming from...yourself? We don’t always notice it but we can inadvertently be creating more emails for ourselves by being vague. If you need to know 3 things, don’t ask questions one-by-one. Get everything into a single email so you don’t do a 3 step back and forth.
THE CREAM OF THE CROP
Now you’ve got your nice empty inbox. But why even have an inbox if you’re just going to archive everything you receive?
Make sure you’re getting the important stuff, hot off the press, as soon as it lands in your inbox. Gmail is smart in this regard—it looks at your emails and when it sees something it thinks is important, it’ll mark it automatically. But you can improve this by training it yourself. Mark important emails accordingly and next time, Gmail will be more likely to mark that sender!
You can also use filters to add a star automatically to emails from a special email address, containing a certain word or sentence (‘The Bahamas”), or with a certain subject.
NEW INBOX WHO DIS
Don’t let all your hard work be for nothing! Just take a moment once or twice a day to archive what’s unnecessary and reply to what’s waiting for you. Just do it. You’ll feel better for it. Keep it up. There’s no time like the present. Seize the day. Live Love Laugh.
Maintaining a clean inbox is probably a bigger task than achieving it for the first time. The same persistence that helped you get started is what will help you maintain it. Email statistics tools like Email Meter can help you keep track of your email habits over time — so you can stay near inbox zero forever.
These tips and Email Meter will allow you to step out of email chaos into a more productive and balanced life.