3 Simple Ways to Tame an Overwhelming Email Inbox

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Remember when you’d power up your computer, connect the phone line and dial-up to connect to the internet? Then we’d log into our Hotmail or AOL and with such anticipation and excitement hear, “You’ve got mail.”

We’ve come along way since then. With watches that now buzz your wrist the moment you receive an email to televisions that interrupt your shows with special alerts.

But I actually still get excited when I get notified of a new email. The anticipation of what’s inside and who’s it from still screams opportunity to me. However, that excitement and joy is only because I’ve learned to simplify my email.

I’ve streamlined the overwhelming influx of information within my Inbox, so I’m only focusing on what’s most important.

But for some, who have yet to find a system that works or just can’t seem to keep up, that overwhelm is real. Really real.

Having too many unimportant emails cluttering the important emails can cause us to drop the ball, miss out on opportunities and some days, just want to shut it all down.

I truly believe I still find enjoyment in my email because I’ve managed to simplify things before they ever got too overwhelming.

I have a few tools and strategies in place that can simplify even the wildest Inboxes and help you tame your email so you, too, can get excited again when something pings in your box. And I want to share them with you, too!

1) Unsubscribe immediately.

A personal favorite of mine is Unroll.Me. This simple FREE tool allows you to mass unsubscribe from all those random subscriptions you never remembered signing up for. Or those ‘Sign up today for 10% off’ emails that you used once and no longer need the weekly (ugh, sometimes daily) sale reminders.

I’m not an advocate to unsubscribing from all subscriptions, however, just the ones you know you don’t need nor do you want. And especially the ones you don’t even remember signing up for.

Once you do a clean sweep through the subscriptions, be sure when a new email comes in that you no longer want, unsubscribe immediately.

Sure, it’s easier to swipe Delete from your phone, but you’ll have to do that maybe 5-10 times a month. Whereas unsubscribing takes a few seconds longer and you only have to do it once.

2) Set up Folders/Labels and Filters.

Next, all those emails you get (that you actually still really want to get) that aren’t top priority, need to get filtered out of your main Inbox immediately.

If you use Gmail (which I highly recommend), they’ve tried to take care of this for you with their ‘Tabs’ functionality but I actually turned this off. I felt it made it look too cluttered and I always felt like I was missing an email somewhere.

So after turning that off, you’ll want to create your own filters. Maybe you have an Inspirational Reads folder, maybe a Business Growth folder, maybe a Sales & Specials folder. Whatever is important for you keep, create those folders first and then create and apply the filters.

The nice thing about Gmail filters is when you set it up they’ll do a search and ask if you want to apply it to current messages, too… and the answer would be yes! 🙂

You’ll want to make sure you go through these folders every now and again. I like to save these for doctor office visits, waiting in the car or any simple down time when my phone is handy and I can catch up on some reading.

The key is to find a system that works for you that allows you to go back and review those emails.

We don’t want to just defer clutter, but rather create a purposeful system.

3) Zero out the Inbox every night.

So by now, you should have no emails coming in you don’t want. You should have all non-urgent emails filtered away. And now, that leaves you with only urgent, important (or fun!) emails coming into your Inbox.

With the first two steps really simplifying your email process, you’ll want to commit to getting to Inbox Zero every night. Or if it’s more realistic, every week. I try for every night but do a clean sweep at least once a week if I slip up.

If my Inbox has emails in it, that means there still is work to be done. It’s sort of my top priority to-do list. But if I commit to zeroing out my Inbox then that means the next day {or week} I can start fresh and not have to go to sleep or through the weekend thinking about anything left untended to.

Some more tips I’ve found helpful in simplifying and taming my Inbox are:

  • Every time I have to create a new account somewhere online, I immediately go into the settings and opt out of regular up dates.
  • I have one email for friends and family and then one email for business.
  • I’ve turned off all email notifications on my phone, watch and computer. I only know if I have email if I take a moment to consciously check it.
  • I try to have set times to check and respond to emails. {Still working on this one myself, but when I do stick to it, I realize how much time I’m really saving!}
  • I’m not afraid to delete. Once I reply, I file it or delete. More times than not I delete, unless they’re client emails.
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