A couple of weeks ago, I had over a thousand emails in my inbox. Today I have two.
Looking at your email inbox is often a daunting task, but when you somehow amass over a thousand unread emails, it is a good signal to that it may be time to declutter.
With spring around the corner, it might be time to extend spring cleaning to your virtual inbox clutter and get organized. Here are some strategies to help start the process, and you get one step closer to a clean and stress-free email inbox.
1) Start categorizing and labeling your emails
The best way to clean an inbox is to start organizing – and more importantly, consistently maintaining a system. Start creating overarching inbox categories, folders and/or labels for your emails and as they are received, place them in their corresponding folders.
This keeps your inbox clean, while also making searching and archiving easier in the long run. Some overarching categories to start with would be folders for financial details, school and/or work information, friends and family and miscellaneous. From there on out, you can either choose to create subcategories and folders, or drag content directly into these folders.
Either way, it will be substantially better than letting your email inbox itself clog up with useless emails and far easier to search for emails when you need to.
I found I had a ton of email courses and information about things so I created a base in Airtable for these things. It’s perfect for helping me keep track of emails with information I want to revisit.
After logging them in Airtable, I moved the emails to a folder in my inbox dedicated for information. Presto! It’s out of my inbox.
If it was one email with a lot of relevant info I wanted to keep, I copied and pasted it into my OneNote notebook.
OneNote serves as the central hub of information in my life.
2) Sort your inbox by sender
One quick way to sort and delete inboxes in large batches is to sort by sender. Rather than going in page by page to delete useless emails, sort by sender to quickly view and delete useless emails. Sorting through this method ensures that you methodically and quickly delete promotional emails and subscriptions you no longer need in quick bursts.
When initially cleaning an inbox, bulk deleting is the name of the game. It will be arguably the fastest way to get the total number of emails, but it also requires some sort of organizational method to ensure speedy results. For some, sorting by sender is the easiest while others prefer to sort by data and delete oldest emails first. Employ whichever system works best for you, and get to work deleting.
3) When in doubt, enlist third party apps
Sometimes, the email decluttering process may seem so overwhelming that it might be difficult to start. Luckily, there is now an app for everything. Find and utilize third party apps to help in this effort. For example, free apps such as Unroll.Me are useful for identifying all of the newsletters you are currently subscribed to, and helping you easily unsubscribe to the ones you do not read. Another free service that might be helpful is Cleanfox, a web product that aims to declutter inboxes by deleting emails as well as helping users unsubscribe to unwanted emails.
Alternatively, you can also use services such as Mailstrom, which use a sophisticated algorithm to group similar emails together in order to effectively delete emails in one fell swoop. Mailstrom is a paid service, but customers are offered a free seven day trial to ascertain if this is the right service for them. Other paid services include products such as SaneBox, which is designed to be smart filters and sort email as it is received based on user actions and preferences.
There are a multitude of tips and tricks out there for email decluttering based on what email client you use. However, after the initial decluttering, it is imperative to keep the momentum going.
Once you are down to inbox zero, don’t get complacent! Actively filter, sort and delete emails as they are received in order to maximize the time you have spent cleaning out your inbox. Plus, once you have a system in place, it becomes far easier to keep it consistent and keep your inbox clean.
15-30 minutes a day. I had over a thousand emails, and I achieved inbox zero by consistently dedicating 15-30 minutes every day to reduction. OneNote and Airtable were invaluable.
Strangely enough, I enjoyed these intervals. I found it fun to wade through all the pins from Pinterest I’d emailed to myself, links I’d emailed to myself, and other emails I never got around to moving or deleting.
How do you manage your inbox? Let me know in the comments; we can all learn something from each other!