I admit it: when it comes to having a clear inbox, I’m bad. I have moments that last for weeks where my inbox is spotless, and then seemingly overnight, there’s a pile of messages.
Here are a few tips that have worked for me in the ongoing battle for a manageable inbox:
The e-mail newsletters you never read anymore? Get rid of them!
All the updates from LinkedIn groups and other things you never read? Same thing — unsubscribe!
While I’ve never bought something that looked cool on TV because I’m pretty frugal, e-mail newsletters are free — and if it sounds good — I’ve been known to subscribe.
There are newsletters I read, but over time, I noticed most newsletters that came into my inbox…I either deleted right away, or opened and moved on to other e-mail.
Instead of hitting delete or just going through newsletters with a click, take a moment to unsubscribe from them if you don’t actually read them.
If it’s something like a LinkedIn group you feel may provide great information someday, give yourself 15-20 minutes every day or so to check out all your groups on LinkedIn.
Clearing the e-mail we bring upon ourselves through subscriptions is one of the best ways of stopping a flood of e-mail.
Had I made money from all the Facebook notifications I used to receive, I’d be a very wealthy individual.
Facebook has become the preferred method of communication for many of my friends. (While I have a Facebook presence for The Juggling Writer and my podcast, my main Facebook account is used to stay in touch with people I actually know in real life.)
I used to have Facebook set to notify me of everything. When I cleared out my inbox, most of the e-mail I deleted were Facebook notifications.
I reduced the amount of e-mail coming in by turning off some notifications.
I don’t have time today to do screen captures for a tutorial showing you how to do this, but here’s the quick version:
- Go to the Account dropdown in the upper right side of your Facebook page.
- Go to Account > Account Settings.
- Click the Notifications tab.
- See all those little check boxes under the e-mail icon? Uncheck the things for which you don’t want an e-mail notification. (For me, it was most of the “Comments after you…” options.)
If you’re like me, at first you’re going to feel like you’re missing out on things. But everytime I checked my Facebook page, not only was I having to delete e-mail notifications, I had to at least click the Notification icon showing me recent activity.
Now I go through notifications on Facebook, saving me the time of clearing all those notifications from my inbox.
Tidy Up When In
If you feel overwhelmed by a full inbox, do this:
Each time you check e-mail, either file away e-mail you need to keep or requiring some kind of action, and delete the e-mail requiring no action.
And then…delete 10 other messages!
It’s kind of like saving money: if you take in more than goes out, you save.
With clearing your inbox, if you delete more than what comes in, you eventually find yourself with a clear inbox.
Make a Crap Box
There are times you have to provide an e-mail address to check something out online.
Maybe a friend has requested you vote for them in some kind of online contest, or you have to provide a valid e-mail address for access to something.
Make a Crap Box.
I have an e-mail address (Web-based) specifically for these situations. I can register for something, go check my Crap Box to verify that yes, I want to check out that demo, and I can do a mass delete on everything in that account without fearing that I deleted an invitation to something important.
Let People Know
This is something I don’t do, but it’s something I’ve seen work for others.
I know people who check e-mail once a day…even once every several days.
They create an auto reply message letting people know it may be days before they hear back from them, preventing the dreaded, “Did you get my e-mail?” call just 20 minutes after the e-mail was sent.
It’s your life and if you feel overwhelmed by e-mail, it’s your right to cut it off…or at least limit what comes in.
There can be a downside to this: some people may stop communicating with you. People tend to use their preferred method for communicating — not your preferred method.
Example: I don’t like the phone — it’s interrupting.
I turn my phone on after writing for hours and sometimes have 2-3 messages from somebody who lives on their phone, amazed that I haven’t returned their calls. Unless you’re in my contacts and I have time to take the call, the phone is the worst way to get in touch with me.
I’ve missed some important calls over the years, but weighed against what I’ve accomplished by disconnecting from most phone calls, I accept the consequences and don’t mind.
Keep it Clean
This is where I falter…when I have a clean inbox, it’s usually a matter of time before that day comes along when I get slammed by client e-mail, friends, family, and notifications that people have replied to The Juggling Writer and other things.
Maybe I’m on a deadline and I don’t have time to file things away (even though I really do); maybe I just feel overwhelmed and let it go.
That’s when things pile up and spiral out of control.
I’m trying to be better about clearing my inbox in the evening, but I still haven’t perfected a spotless inbox.
Of course, when I think about it — since it’s my preferred method of communication — a spotless inbox is a silly goal.
For me, manageable is what I shoot for, and some of these tips helped me get there.
What About You?
I’m far from an expert when it comes to managing e-mail.
I have friends who have filters on their e-mail, so when things come in from certain people, they instantly go to proper folders for later review. I’ve seen people who reply to everything that comes in as it comes in (and I wonder how much they actually get done). I’ve seen people shun e-mail almost entirely.
So…what’s worked for you when it comes to managing e-mail?