Sunday, October 20, 2013

Control That Inbox

Does the above picture seem suspiciously familiar? Don't worry, you aren't the only one. Today I'll share my tips on clearing that inbox.

So let me start, once again with the idea of simplicity and of keeping your inbox at zero. It is important to go through your email every single day, if not multiple times, especially for your work email. Thanh Pham has a wonderful article on Asian Efficiency about managing email. Basically, he asserts that your inbox is not a storage place, but rather a temporary holding ground for email that needs to be attended to. He advises to create two folders, "Reply" and "Waiting," to be able to sort through your email. This is a FABULOUSLY simple plan for managing email! Any email that can be taken care of in 2 minutes goes in the reply folder while any email that needs additional processing time goes into the waiting folder. Simple, right?! If you'd like, please go read the article! I highly recommend it!

Now that you've developed a way to sort through mail, it's important to go through ALL your mail! Yes, all 99,999 emails have to be looked at! Sorry, buddy, ain't no easy way to go about that. It just has to happen. Break this task up throughout several days. Take two 30 minute daily sessions to clear through old email. Make sure that you are also clearing through new email as it comes in!

While you are clearing through email you should also be sorting it into categories, instead of simply archiving them. The categories will differ from person to person, but every person will have several. Think of these categories as ongoing conversations or ones that have already ceased. Say for example, you are a student that just finished interning at a law firm and  have many correspondence emails in your inbox. Create a folder that will specifically archive these emails. Don't just toss all those emails in that folder, decide which are important and should be kept. Remember, we aren't just relocating the mess, we are sorting through it. You might have many categories such as bills, bank statements, online receipts, etc. So again, let's say you ordered something from Amazon and have received an email confirmation for your order. Put that email in the "Waiting" folder. Once you get your package move that email to your "Receipts" folder. You might want to keep the email confirmation for a few months and then purge it. Some receipts you might not want to purge at all, for example large/expensive purchases whose receipts have been sent to your email.
These are my folders, which are also color coded.
 Please don't freak out when you read Mass Murder Inc.
It's a research project that I worked on- scary name, I know. 

Now that your necessary mail is sorted, what to do with all the junk mail? Most email providers already sort out some junk mail, but I bet you still receive a lot of mail that clutters your inbox. Maybe you purchased something from Company Y and now you constantly receive newsletters or promotional emails from them. Well, instead of just sending them to trash make sure they don't enter your inbox any more. Search at the bottom of these emails for an unsubscribe link or button. Click it and deselect yourself from all their promotional emails. If you do this to every unwanted email that comes into your inbox, in a month you'll see the difference! Also, as in regular snail mail, make sure that you use discretion when signing up for online services or making purchases. Look for options that let you deselect having promotional emails sent to you.
An example of what the unsubscribe section at the bottom of the email might look like. 

Having learned about managing your inbox, do you feel any more powerful about tackling your emails? I hope so! Tell me of your success stories!


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