Get Control of What Seems Uncontrollable
Let’s face it, you may have a beautiful desk, color-coded planner and pristine car, but chances are there is a disaster hidden where most people are unlikely to see it: your email inbox. At In Order To Succeed® we believe that an organized email boosts productivity, eliminates stress, and makes for a happier, healthier you. Start applying our tips for organizing your email and watch how quickly you start to feel more in control.
The Overflowing Inbox
Email. Some years ago it was primarily used as a go to method reserved for work communications. For most of us, the daily information flood of sales notices, social media updates, newsletters, and marketing emails now make up a significant portion of our inboxes. It can get out of control very quickly with messages going unread, undeleted, and haphazardly marked and tagged. The easiest way to get control of your email and begin working toward achieving the elusive inbox zero, is to begin to simplify it.
Plan An Unsubscribing Session
One of the problems with email is that we all sign up for mailing lists we’re just not interested in. Maybe it’s to get a coupon, maybe it’s because we enjoyed a few articles on a site. Whatever the reason, it’s time to kick those space-hogging subscriptions to the curb. Pour a cup of your favorite beverage at a time when you can give at least 90 minutes attention to nothing but your inbox. Open it and scan through just for subscriptions. Do not open anything else, ignore the beeps and leave your other tabs closed (it’s tough, we know!). Open each email and immediately scroll to the bottom where you’ll find the teeny font where you can unsubscribe and DO IT. If you haven’t opened and used the information in the subscription you’re not going to. You don’t need to know that someone else pinned a recipe similar to yours or what the specials are at Target — there’s an app for that. Only keep subscriptions to the emails you open and actually read.
After your 90-minute unsubscribing marathon, make it a habit to open, read, and delete all of your subscription emails. Anything from yesterday that is unread tomorrow should be unsubscribed from going forward. If you subscribe to something for a coupon, once it comes IMMEDIATELY go into the email and unsubscribe.
Avoid The Siren Song of Email Managing Software
At some point I signed up for a service that would roll up my emails into one. Instead of a ton of subscriptions I would get a daily email with all of those emails. And I ignored them. Services that say they are here for organizing your email often sound better than they are. The key is to only subscribe to things you will actually read, recognize those you don’t, and get rid of them.
Avoid Notification Emails
Many apps include an option for an email notification. But do you really need an email every time someone comments on a photo you liked on Facebook? No. Your notifications come up when you log onto various websites so unless it’s something very important (like major breaking news, your bank, or a job search site) stop the notification emails. One of the easiest ways to start organizing your email is to declutter your inbox!
Set up Filters
If you still want to receive and review the social network notifications, just not be notified every minute, create a filter and rule on your email platform to identify incoming messages that are generated by your network sites and give them a label. You can set up a rule to then have them redirected into an archive folder to review at a later time. This way, you can still keep up to date with your social news and events, but they are out of your inbox.
Stop BCCing Yourself
The last bit of email advice we have is to stop blind copying yourself. Your sent email file is a valuable thing but the blind copy clutters the heck out of your inbox. Just don’t clean out your sent mail so that you have your copy if needed. It will be nearly impossible to feel like you’re organizing your email if it’s overflowing with messages you’ve sent to yourself. Added tip: don’t print emails. You don’t need hard copies of your emails — they take up space and add to the clutter. Take a screen shot of important information and add to your phone or write what you need into your planner.
Read, Delete, Repeat
Rather than keeping your email open all day or having notifications for it on your phone, only open your email twice a day: when you start working, and when you’re winding down. 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. if you work a traditional work day. In addition to being harder to manage, multi-tasking just doesn’t work and getting distracted by the constant beep and buzz of emails that likely don’t matter isn’t helping your productivity. If someone needs you immediately they will call or text.
When you settle in to check your email, do so with intention — this is essential to organizing your email. Open your email inbox and nothing else. Skim and select those you know you won’t read and delete them without opening. Then start with your least recent email (the first to come in after you checked before ending work). Read it, do what you need to with pertinent information, and then delete it. Scared to delete? Here’s how to get comfortable with it:
- If an email has a meeting request that is linked to your calendar simply accept or decline. It’s now in your calendar or not.
- If an email has a meeting request that is not linked, assess whether the time/location works, put it in your calendar, respond and delete.
- Contact info? Add to your contacts and delete.
- Project info? If you have a hard file, print and place it in. If you are paperless, screenshot the necessary info and delete.
Once your inbox is empty, close your email and don’t look again until your day is unwinding. Eventually you’ll get into such a habit that it won’t bother you to see something at 5pm that came in at 1pm and wasn’t all that important. If you can’t act right away create a follow up folder and go back to it within 48 hours.
For other ideas to achieve inbox zero, check out these helpful apps that can assist you and make the process a little less daunting. Here is a good list.
In Order To Succeed® has a wealth of talent and experience in assisting clients get their digital spaces under control. Let us help you — organizing your email is the easiest place to start. Once you have that down you’ll be excited to see what else you can accomplish with that newfound time.