One of life’s greatest ‘little’ annoyances is the average email inbox. Cluttered, disorganised, impossible to trawl through and difficult to search (thanks,Google), it can eat precious minutes of your time as you try desperately to locate that ‘important’ brief your boss sent you sometime last month. Add to that the stress of losing, say, a warranty agreement mailed to you many moons ago in the depths of your backlog – just when you need it most – and you’ll understand us when we say it’s time to sort that inbox out. Here are a few quick tips for reaching a Zen-like balance with your emails:
If you’re anything like us, the likelihood is you never, ever look at those emails you receive from magazines, websites and so-on. No matter what they say in the header, you just ignore them, until they’ve built up into a massive stack of inanity, screaming for your attention. This has to stop. If you’re in the business of sorting out your inbox, the first thing you have to do is unsubscribe from everything. One by one, open those daily/weekly/monthly newsletters find the ‘unsubscribe’ button and hit it. Do this over and over again until you know for certain they won’t return to torment you.
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If your inbox is truly reaching ‘unmanageable’ levels, put aside some time and cull the whole lot of it. As this may take anywhere from a few minutes to a whole day, you’re gonna want to make sure no new emails get swept up in this mass-deletion. The best way to do this is to create a new temporary folder and stick literally every single email you’ve ever received in there. Now, with your ‘inbox’ freed up for new emails only, you can go into the temporary folder and start deleting. Be merciless. Consign whole swathes to the digital dustbin. Only pause to save those of immediate or lasting importance. The rest must go.
Now, by this point, you should be down to a fraction of the emails you had before. But we’re not done yet – not by a long shot. The next step is to take those that survived the cull and shove them into easily-recognisable folders, such as ‘emails from the boss’, ‘home life’, ‘old warranty receipts’ and so on. Do this with the entirety of the temporary folder then, when it’s finally devoid of even the tiniest snatch of binary, delete the thing. Now, with your backlog dealt with, you’re ready to move onto the present.
Stick to Your System
This may be the most important step of all. Now you’ve sorted out the backlog, begin applying the same method to all new emails. If it’s important, file it. If it’s of middling importance, send it to a folder of emails you keep, say, a week or month and then delete. If it’s unimportant, delete the blighter. At the end of every week, go through your inbox and try to get everything into one of your new folders or the trash. This will stop you returning to your pre-spring cleaning levels of clutter.
Change Your Habits
Finally, alter your email habits. Stop signing up to stuff and don’t give your address out unless you can help it. Another trick is to redirect your Facebook/Twitter/YouTube updates to an email address set up specifically for that reason – if for some reason you don’t wish to stop them altogether. The last step is to stop emailing people. If you keep sending your ‘witty’ anecdotes to the whole office, don’t be surprised when they respond with similarly ‘witty’ comments and clog up your inbox. No more gifs. No more photoshopped images of cats. Turn your inbox into a ‘work-only’ zone and watch your email-related stress fade away.
One of the greatest things you can do for your productivity is to only check your email at scheduled intervals. This is very difficult if you are like me, and check roughly every five minutes. Try cutting down to once every half an hour at first, and you’ll quickly notice how productive you can be!
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