We’ve all done it before – let our inbox get away from us and suddenly we have far too many emails to manage. I try to keep my inbox in the single digits at all time, though I know for some people the numbers escape and get into the hundreds. My dad’s inbox is heinous, especially on his iPhone – the red notification bubble reads somewhere in the two thousands most of the time.
Though it’s easy to let emails get away from you, it’s also easy to manage if you keep on top of things. I’d like to think that I have a good handle of my inbox, I always answer emails in a prompt manner, and I never let emails get lost in the bustle. Here are a few things you can do to keep your inbox neat and tidy.
1. Use multiple email accounts
I do try and live by the saying ‘less is more’ but when it comes to email accounts, that is just not the case. You can not possibly get by with just one. In my opinion you need at least 3. A business account, a personal account, and a spam account. Your business account is used exclusively for contacting clients or colleagues in a professional manner. Your personal account is used for normal day to day email that isn’t business related. Your spam account is used to sign up for newsletters, discounts, coupons, and that sort of thing. You should also use your spam account if you ever have to sign up for something that you think might not be safe – so that if it does bring in spam it’s in your spam account!
2.Keep your address protected
If you throw your email address (or addresses) out there on the internet willy nilly, you’re going to get spam. Little internet robots comb the web looking for addresses just for the sole purpose of sending you CRAP. PURE CRAP. I made the mistake of putting my old blog email out on my contact page without any protection, and I’m still paying for it. You can read my post here about different ways you can put your address on your site, while still staying safe from spambots, and save yourself from the crap that I’m drowning in now.
3.Create different folders
It’s important to keep an organized inbox, and the best way to do that is to have different places to sort your mail. Think of a real mailbox. If you had a super organized efficient office, what different slots would you have for different mail to keep it sorted when it came in? Maybe one for business, one for personal, one for junk, etc. Your virtual inbox is the same – you can keep different folders to sort out your mail. I have mailboxes for my blog, my freelance work, coupons and discounts, receipts, and moving (since I spent a long time searching for apartments and emailing landlords). I also like to create subfolders in each category as I need to, especially for ongoing projects or important clients at the time.
Every time a message arrives and you’re done reading or dealing with it, move it to the appropriate inbox to keep your inbox itself clear. There’s nothing worse than opening your mail program and seeing 100 emails that you’ve dealt with but haven’t got around to putting somewhere yet. If you don’t sort your mail once you’re done with it, that’s how an inbox gets away from you and ends up in the thousands.
Of course you can delete mail that doesn’t need to be saved, but creating mailboxes allows you to save anything you might need to reference later. Another little tip is if you have an iCloud email (which you automatically do if you have an apple id) then you can create your folders in that email, and they will be stored in the cloud. Then you can access them from your phone or laptop. I don’t really understand the cloud, and I don’t try to, but I know that if I move something into an cloud inbox on my computer, I can see it there on my phone.
If you really want to go above and beyond with your sorting, creating a To Do mailbox as well. This will help you keep your inbox super super clean. So if you read an email but still need to do work associated with that email, move it to your To Do box. This way your inbox keeps tidy, but you haven’t stored it away in a mailbox yet where you’ll forget to complete the task.
4. Clean your mailboxes
Now that you have all these mailboxes and everything is really nicely sorted, you need to remember to clean them out. Every few months, take a little time to go into the mailboxes and delete mail that is no longer relevant or important. It’s okay to keep mail that you might have to refer back to, but it’s likely that a lot of what’s in there is not necessary any more.
We’re all used to seeing the promotional emails from our favourite stores in our inbox every morning, glancing at them for a few seconds while lying in bed, and then deleting them. It’s likely that we subscribed to them to get a signup discount or a promotional offer, and never unsubscribed after that. It seems like a very small chore in the morning, but think about all that time added up over the course of a year. You’re wasting HOURS deleting emails that you don’t even need.
So, next time you have nothing to do (I know that’s a crazy thought, but it does happen) sit down and unsubscribe to all the programs that you don’t need. Of course, there might be some newsletters you actually use to see deals on a regular basis, but for the most part you’ll be unsubscribing from a LOT of programs. You don’t really read them anyways right? So you won’t be missing anything. And, if all else fails, you can subscribe to them again as you need to (and you’ll probably even get that sign up offer again!). Bonus!