5 Tips for Keeping Emails from Ruling your life

Email is something that we all use but sometimes it becomes our master instead of being a tool. We’ve all seen (or experienced) the inbox that gets clogged with hundreds or thousands of messages. Many of us have even lost or missed opportunities because we didn’t see a message come in to our inbox. So how can we control our email accounts and not let the messages rule our life?

Here are 5 tips for keeping emails under control.


5 Tips for Keeping Emails from Ruling your life

Pick one account to start with.

Many of us have multiple email addresses for different parts of our life. We have work, personal, and maybe a couple addresses that we just no longer use on a regular basis. When you decide to tackle your email monster, don’t do them all at once. Get one under control and then move to the next.

Aim for Zero.

Zero is a beautiful number of emails in my inbox. I never delete emails at work and keep most of my personal emails as well. But I never keep them in my inbox. I use file folder/labels to keep things organized so I don’t have to see the visual clutter in my inbox.

I aim for the one touch method with my emails just like I do for my paper mail that comes each day. When I first pick it up or receive it, I deal with it. Is it junk? Then it goes straight in to the trash/recycle bin. Is it something I can deal with in 30 seconds or less? Then I address it immediately. Is it going to take some time to take care of the message? It goes on my to do list.

Tip: On my computer I use a simple add-on called todoist. This allows me to just move an email directly on to my to do list so I can check it off later. But I can also file the email immediately so it doesn’t clog my inbox.

Start with the big stuff.

If your inbox is full of hundreds/thousands of emails, its going to be overwhelming to get it down to zero. But you can probably address the most recent messages and then just move the rest of them straight to a file folder called ‘archives’. That way you don’t have to worry about losing them, but you can virtually start from scratch with an empty clean inbox.

Unsubscribe as you go.

If you’re like me, you get dozens of junk messages regularly from things you signed up for a long time ago. When those junk messages come in, take 10 seconds and hit the unsubscribe button.

Tip: Use a website like unroll.me that will help you unsubscribe and clean up your inbox. It’s a free option that will show you all the sites that you are subscribed to. It is a great tool that will help you bulk unsubscribe and cut down on the junk in your inbox.

Take 30 at the end of the day.

I work well with lists. I like knowing that I have everything on a list so I don’t take a chance on forgetting something important. Every day I try to take about 30 minutes and go through my inbox and my to do list to make sure I have finished everything that is required of that day. If there are things that I didn’t get accomplished, I put them on the list for the next day and move them out of my inbox.

By spending 30 minutes at the end of the day, I am able to start the next morning fresh and ready to tackle the tasks.

So the big question you have for me right now is how many messages are in my inbox as I start the day? Zero! But the day is still young. I’m sure it will fill up quickly and I will get the chance to practice these tips.

Have any tips for controlling your inbox? I’d love to hear!

Excerpts of this article first appeared in the print edition of the Advocate Messenger.

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