BY DEON DEWAR-GRAY, CHIEF VIRTUAL ORGANIZER, WWW.IAMDEONCECILE.COM @IAMDEONCECILE
I've been on a decluttering and reorganizing binge for the last year, so, recently I thought to myself, why am I not decluttering and reorganizing my emails 🤔.
How many of you have:
Multiple email accounts?
Tons of messages in our inboxes?
Numerous subscription emails?
Missed important messages because it's hidden in #2 above?
Too little time to read and sort?
If you've answered yes to any of the above then it's time to #organize your emails.
Emails can be burdensome and overwhelming, but for some people, the more emails they have the more important they believe their role to be. Not every email requires an answer; truth be told, not every email is even worth reading. However, in order to get your life on track and remove the email noose from around your neck, you need to develop new habits and stick to them. And, if you fall off for a day or two just get back on track right away. Believe me, having a clutter free email helps you:
stay on top of your game,
reduce anxiety (yes too many emails can cause anxiety),
improve your response time,
increase your efficiency .
I have not always had my emails in-check. As a matter of fact, at one point in time I was being ruled by my emails. Currently I manage 7 email accounts - 3 work and 4 personal. IT USE TO BE A MESS. A few still are, like the picture above with over 7,000 emails and 32 sub-folders. Thankfully, reorganizing is in progress. It is a process. My main work email for example had 21 sub-folders. You know those other boxes we create and either filter things to them or manually move them there and sometimes never go back to them? Yeah, those! Now I can proudly say that email has only 6 such folders and lots more email storage space. IT CAN BE DONE PEOPLE! But it takes a little time and effort, some will-power and a whole lot of letting go. It won't be easy at first, but gets easier over time. The more I organize them, the lighter I feel and you will too.
Here are my TOP 10 TO-DO's when it comes to organizing email inboxes.
Schedule email time. Just like how you schedule your meetings and exercise routines, schedule time for checking emails. This can be done in small portions, for example, schedule 3, 20-30 minute slots throughout the day. You decide how much time you need, but schedule it and stick to it. I find that doing a morning, afternoon and night thing works for me. However, for business related accounts, and sometimes for your personal accounts, you can do what I call a "spot check" once per hour just to make sure you are not missing an urgent matter. And frankly, if it were extremely urgent, you'd have gotten a phone call.
Create a filing system. Zach Hanlon says we should strive to only have 5 folders; Inbox, FYI, Today, This Week, This Month. For heaven's sake, try avoid using subject matters to create folders - that's the proverbial rabbit hole. I mentioned before that my main work email had 21 sub-folders, now that's down to 6. @RhettPower says, one should use the FAST System - "Once you read it, decide whether to File it, Assign it to someone, Store (or Scan) for future reference, or Trash it." I use a combination of both but I call mine "TOUCH IT ONCE." Natasha in "27 Email Management Tips From ‘Inbox Zero’ People," calls her method the "OHIO method—Only Handle It Once."
Create a Filter System. We all get bulk email, most of which are just FYI, some may have pertinent information, but nothing we need to read right away. Create filters to move these into a folder that you can check at your leisure. Once you've checked them, remove the ones that you no longer need and archive accordingly.
Reduce number of email accounts. I mentioned earlier that I manage 7 email accounts. Unfortunately the work ones are not going anywhere so I just have to manage those as best as possible (see point # 5 below). However, when it comes to your personal accounts, you can get away with just one depending on what you do, 2-3 will be fine, NO MORE. In her article "The Best Way to Organize Your Email," Christine Carter says you need 3 types of account - a work, a personal and a bulk. Do what works best for you.
Delegate accounts. If you have the capacity to do so , then by all means do so. 2 of my work emails are managed by other persons and I check them occasionally.
Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe. Now this is funny. Why? Because at the end of this post I'm telling you to subscribe to my blog so you get notifications when awesome articles like this are posted (check out the website though more great stuff happening over there). Not to worry, I only post twice per month, maybe 3, so I won't be bombarding your inbox (check out daily activity on Instagram). But seriously though, how many of us subscribe to every online store that sends out coupons and newsletters that we're not interested in? Raise your hands. Now you don't have to, a quick google search will spew out all those coupons in a jiffy. So unsubscribe.
Add a preview panel. You can save lots of time by using this option. Glance at it and determine if you really need to read it. Then you can immediately delete it or FYI/Archive it.
Keep an actual "to-do list." Convert your emails to tasks automatically or you can add them manually.
Use features. Adding features improves efficiency. Try these: send and archive; star/tag important messages - makes it easier to search; nudges - if you've forgotten to respond to an email it will reappear in your inbox after a few days.
Deep Clean. Pretend it's spring cleaning time and do this at least once a month. Your inboxes and mind will thank you for it.
Quick Tips to Start the Clean-Up Process
Do a keyword search to filter junk emails and delete those.
Unsubscribe from the unnecessary ones right away.
Purge emails you no longer need.
Decide on the sub-folders/labels you want to create. Refer to point #2 above.
Copy emails from current folders, based on subject matter, or however you had them before, into the new folders you've created.
Schedule time to go through your newly created folders to remove all necessary emails, respond to forgotten messages, filter, archive etc., as appropriate.
Use email organizing tools to make life easier. Check out tools such as Shift, Unroll.Me, IFTTT (If This Then That).
Disable built in tabs you don't use. For example, in my Gmail, there are tabs like promotion, social, updates and forums that I don't use so I disable them. Less is more.
Forward emails that are not your responsibility & delete.
Use apps like Evernote to save articles you want to read in the near future and then delete the emails.
Just like everything else in your life developing good habits help you achieve more. So you have to develop good email habits to keep your inbox clutter free and your stress and anxiety levels down. If you don't, it can spiral out of control. Learn how to tame the beast. At the end of the day, your ultimate goal should be to have a zero inbox or an inbox with only actionable items .
Don't try to implement everything right away; schedule the time and do it gradually. No need to add more frustration and anxiety. I hope you've enjoyed reading this article and you've found some helpful tips. Please remember to like, share and leave a comment with your personal email experiences.
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