Spring cleaning isn’t just for your home. Welcome the new season with open arms and an organized inbox. All those emails may seem insurmountable, but it’s easier to tackle than it seems.
Just like a big stack of papers that needs to be filed, organizing your email inbox can be a chore. Besides being overwhelming, a wild inbox can make it difficult to find important information and can even cause you to miss important deadlines. Different email providers may have different tools to help you keep your mail in check, but here are a few general suggestions that will help get you started.
If you’re like me, you skip over less important emails and end up leaving a number unread. All of a sudden, your inbox says that you have hundreds of messages. Don’t panic. Click to see all “unread” messages at once and go through them. Chances are that if you haven’t read them by now, they can be deleted. Take a quick glance for any important emails from friends, family, or co-workers. Once you’ve weeded those out, hit “select all” and then “delete.” You’ll be down to zero unread messages in minutes.
Folders are key to organizing your inbox. Just like when you are physically filing papers, email folders are a way for you to easily access your messages later. I have folders for bills and finance, passwords, receipts, family, friends and even one for my upcoming vacation. In Microsoft Outlook, putting an email in a folder will automatically remove it from your general inbox. In Gmail you can hit “archive” so that it only appears in that folder. If you can’t decide which folder to put an email in, add it to multiple folders. Just get it out of your inbox!
For items that you need to follow up on, create action folders that you can always turn to. Make a “to do” folder when you need to remember to follow up with an action. A “to reply” folder will help you streamline your email replies. “Waiting for a reply” is helpful when you need to remember to follow up if they don’t.
Chances are there are a huge number of emails that you delete — from stores where you shopped, events you’ve attended or organizations that you’ve supported. Start being ruthless about unsubscribing, which will cut down drastically on the amount of unwanted emails.
Your initial attempt at de-cluttering your inbox will take some time, so carve out a few hours to get to square one. Once you’re there, experts suggest setting aside a certain time each day to deal with your email so it doesn’t get out of control again.
Once you get your email organized, maintaining it is the easy part. Take an action with every single email that enters your inbox, whether it’s to delete it, put it in an archive folder, or add it to an action folder. Keep on top of it and you won’t face inbox clutter ever again.