In today’s busy world, more and more people receive too many emails, and the stress of finding time to reply to them is a common issue. The internet keeps us tied to our smartphones, so responding to emails is a 24/7 task, with workers even resorting to setting ‘out of offices’ when they go home each evening to give them some peace of mind. The French have gone one step further, and launched a new law establishing workers’ “right to disconnect.”
Replying to emails is stressful, time-consuming, and often unnecessary. So what can you do if you are genuinely reaching inbox overload? Here are some tips gathered and summarized (because of that pesky lack of time mentioned above) to start your organizational inbox purge/journey.
Step 1: Purge
If you’re sitting on emails from months ago, odds are you don’t need them anymore. But then again, you never know right?
Solution: Move all your messages that didn’t arrive in the last 30 days into a folder—or into a “label” if you’re using Gmail.
If that leaves you with a stack of emails that’s still larger than you want to deal with—like triple digits—continue to adjust the date until your inbox decreases to double or single digits.
Title your folder “Before 8/1/2015” (or your chosen date). This way, you can always dig through your folder if you ever need to access an ancient message
An easy way to move thousands of emails at once: If you use Outlook, type “received: <08/01/2015” (or your chosen date, in that format) into your inbox search bar. Select all your results—using Command+A on a Mac or Control+A on a PC—and drag them into your folder.
Once you do that, a box should pop up that tells you it’s copying the results into your specified folder. After the messages are copied, go ahead and delete them from your main inbox.
Or in Gmail, type “before: 2015/08/01” into your search bar. Click the “select all” box. At the tip of the page, you’ll see the option to “select all conversations that match this search.”
Click that option, drop your emails into your folder, and then click “archive” to clear your emails out of your inbox.
Yes, this is not a permanent purge, but it will start you on the path to organizing.
Step 2: Stash or Trash
Now that your pile is more manageable, start sifting through it. Delete anything you don’t need—which may be the bulk of your inbox if you get a lot of marketing emails or social media notifications.
For any emails that you need to handle, follow the 2-minute rule: If you can take care of it in 2 minutes or less, do it now. Put any emails that will take longer than that in a separate “to do” folder for when you have time. The trick here is to designate the time—weekly or monthly—to take care of this.
Step 3: Avoid a Future Pile-Up
Emptying out your inbox religiously is probably a waste of time. You can reduce your clutter by unsubscribing to mailing lists. Beyond that. Hitting delete, delete, delete maybe satisfying, but why bother? Ask yourself if you are doing it because it make you feel good or because it’s actually useful. If it’s not useful, maybe you don’t need a clean inbox, and maybe you should stop using that as a barometer of success. Give yourself a break.
Now that your inbox is cleared out, take these steps to keep it that way.
Unsubscribe from all your unwanted notifications at once with a free service Unroll.Me. It’ll show your every email list you’re signed up for and allow you to check off the ones you don’t want to receive anymore. Note that this is a free service up to 5 unsubscribes, you can obtain more by “sharing” on your Facebook page. Another sort of overload if you ask me, but hey if it works for you…
Then, as new emails roll in, continue deleting what you don’t need right away and using the 2-minute rule to manage everything else. Set a daily reminder for yourself to check and take care of your To-Do” folder.
Step 4: Rethink the “Inbox Zero” Dream
Adjusting your mind-set may be the hardest, yet most rewarding option. Emptying out your inbox religiously is probably a waste of time. Ask yourself if you are doing it because it makes you feel good or because it’s actually useful. If it’s not useful, maybe you don’t need a clean inbox—and maybe you should stop using that as a barometer of success. Give yourself a break and welcome a new year of organization—on your terms. How refreshing!