Email is great. I love it for communicating with friends or the kids teachers, for getting notifications about events or sales. But holy crap, can it get overwhelming! I’ve had the same email address for twelve years now, so as you can imagine, my subscriptions and lists that I’m on have accumulated to an astronomical level. These are the tips that I use to manage my inbox and make it less overwhelming.
Apply the one minute rule
The one minute rule is one of my favorites to beat procrastination. If something takes under one minute to do, then do it right away. With email, if you can pop out a quick response, or delete emails that aren’t necessary, then use the one minute rule here and deal with it right away. Your email won’t pile up, and you won’t have responses hanging over your head.
Unsubscribe to any emails that don’t apply to your life anymore. If your kids are in middle school, you don’t need to get daily emails from Babies R Us anymore. If you moved out of a town and are still on their listserv, unsubscribe. If you tried a product or restaurant and hate it, get off their mailing list.
Unsubscribing is easy– all marketing emails require an unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. If you use Gmail, from the desktop, hitting spam will pop up a box that allows you to unsubscribe.
Unroll.me might be one of my favorite email products. Best of all, it’s FREE.
Unroll.me works with Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, ICloud, and outlook.com. It pulls all the marketing emails that you receive, and from there, you can either unsubscribe, continue to receive them in your inbox, or add to a rollup. A rollup is one email with a screenshot of all those marketing emails, daily. You still receive them, they are just filtered and put into a folder so they’re not clogging up your inbox. If you still need to see the full email, you can go into that folder to see it.
I log into Unroll.me periodically to add more subscriptions to my rollup, and unsubscribe to emails I no longer want to receive. It’s great to see them all on one screen.
This has made a HUGE difference in being able to streamline my email.
This is going to be a total nerd alert, but I love email filters. These are available in most email apps, even Outlook.
Email filters tell your email program what to do with an email when it comes in. So, for example, if your child plays baseball and you want to make sure you don’t miss a team email, you can set up a filter. Set it up so that all emails from the coach come into your inbox and are, for example, starred (in Gmail) or added to a special folder, or labeled, or whatever you think will get your attention. If you like a certain email newsletter, and don’t always have the time to read it, create a “Read Later” folder and set up a filter so that any newsletters that come from that email address go into that folder.
Inbox Categories (Gmail only)
About a year ago, Gmail started inbox categories. Each category has a tab in Gmail (desktop and Gmail app,) and incoming emails are automatically moved into a specific category. The benefit of this is that it keeps your main inbox much cleaner. Your main inbox is emails that were sent directly to you. Other categories are: social (from social networking,) promotions (marketing emails,) updates, and forums (listservs.)
I really do like this feature of Gmail, but it took me some time to come around and appreciate it. If you’re accessing your Gmail from another app (a stock iPhone app, for instance,) these filters don’t apply. I also do think it’s important to clear those other categories out every few days, because it’s easy to let those add up.
Email is a necessity, but with these tips, you can make your inbox much more manageable.