5 Tips to Help you Tackle your Inbox

If you’re like most people, your email inbox is more or less a growing to-do list: “read this article,” “use that coupon,” etc., etc. 

I used to mark the emails I needed to get back to as “unread.” The problem with this system is that the number kept climbing and I never got around to the emails I needed to follow up on. 

As my unread emails hit the triple digits, I decided that I needed a better system. With a little research, I was able to get my inbox under control and get a lot more done as a result!

No one should be a slave to their email. So here are 5 tips to help you tackle your inbox! 

 
I used to mark the emails I needed to get back to as “unread.” The problem with this system is that the number kept climbing and I never got around to the emails I needed to follow up on.  As my unread emails hit the triple digits, I decided that I needed a better system. With a little research, I was able to get my inbox under control and get a  lot  more done as a result!
 

Mass Unsubscribe

The best way to get rid of inbox clutter is to stop it from coming into your inbox in the first place. Unsubscribe from anything that you don’t value enough to want to read immediately.

I recently decided I would only stay subscribed to people that I recognized. That meant that anyone I had subscribed to for a freebie but couldn’t remember who they were off the top of my head was out.

The only other things I kept were PayPal receipts and bank & library reminders.

So how exactly do you mass unsubscribe? 

Well, you could go into each email individually and hit the unsubscribe button, check the boxes they want and submit their surveys, but who has the time? 

Thats why I like to use  Unroll.me!

Unroll.me is an online service that helps you get a bird’s eye view of what’s coming into your inbox. Under the “Inbox” tab, it shows you everything you are currently receiving. From there you can unsubscribe or add certain emails to your “Rollup,” which basically means you’ll receive 1 daily email with all of the subscriptions you’ve received in the last 24 hours packaged nice and neatly into links similar to a newsletter. These emails bypass your inbox completely, and are held on Unroll.me’s server.

I personally prefer to receive my emails in my inbox. Besides, I feel like the point is to have less emails all around, and sticking them into one email just makes them harder to access and easier to put off. So instead I use the “Unsubscribe” feature to unsubscribe from any and all subscriptions with one click!

Labels

Labels are Gmail’s version of folders. It took me a long time to figure this out; but when I did, it totally changed how I use my inbox.  

I have several main labels and a few sub-labels. It goes like this: 

  • Receipts

  • Blog Receipts

  • Follow Up

  • Subscriptions

  • Blogging

  • Free Resources

  • Hobbies

  • Self-Care

When I get new email in my inbox, it has to fit into one of these labels. Otherwise I more than likely don’t need it. 

In my “Follow Up” label, I put everything that needs my attention, but isn’t totally urgent. Then, once a week I’ll sit down and go through them one-by-one, completing each task as I go. 

Try not to have too many labels. Think of each label as a box for clutter to hide if you’re not too careful. 

The main difference between folders and labels is that once you assign a label to your email, it doesn’t just leave your inbox. In order to take it out of your main inbox, you have to click the “Archive” button at the top of the screen. This keeps the email, but takes it out of your main inbox. Don’t confuse this button with the “Trash” button. Yikes! 

Filters

Filters are a nifty little tool. A filter tells your inbox what to do with certain emails upon arrival. Kind of like a traffic director who tells your emails where to go. This is great for emails you know you’re going to get and can pre-label them so they land in the right area.

In order to set up a new filter, go to your settings up in the top right corner of your screen. A number of tabs will present themselves. Click the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab. Most likely you don’t have any filters set up yet, so click the “Create a new filter” link towards the bottom.

This will open a box with a number of fields on it. We’re just going to focus on the first one for now.  Say I want to send all of my self-care related subscriptions straight into my Self-Care label and I don’t want it to show up in my inbox. Under the “From” field, I put {example@selfcare.com or self.care@example.com or mentalhealth@care.net}. The brackets are important; the filter won’t work otherwise. Also, remember to put “or” in between the emails, not commas.

At the bottom of the box, there’s a search button. This will pull up everything from those emails. What you want to press is the tiny little “Continue >>” link on the bottom right of the box.

The next screen will show a number of options. For my filters, I select the first box “Skip the Inbox (Archive it)” and “Apply the label” with a drop down list of available labels. In this case, I would choose Self-Care and click the “Create filter” at the bottom.

If you’re making filters for the first time, I also like to check the box next to the “Create filter” button that says “Also apply filter to x matching conversations.” This retroactively applies the filter to emails already in your inbox! 

There are a ton of other things you can do with this filter function, but this is all I’ve needed to do so far. Again, I try to keep my email as simple as possible. 

Make time for Email

I used to check my email all day, every day, even when I didn't have more than 30 seconds to pop in and open an email. Not only did it waste my time in the moment, but it created chaos in my inbox. Now, I check my email twice a day: once in the morning, and once at night. By making time for my email, I was eliminating distractions and I was able to get everything done in my email that needed to get done.

Touch it Once

Believe it or not, even with all of these things in place, I still put off going through my email sometimes. That's why I've implemented a "Touch it Once" strategy.

Touch it Once means that once I have opened an email, I have to do something with it, whether it be applying a label and archiving, or adding it to my Follow Ups. I can't open an email without putting it in the appropriate place and archiving it, because that's how I got a giant inbox in the first place!

Your email is a vital communication tool. You shouldn't feel overwhelmed by it. By following these simple tips, you can get your inbox under control and see it for its value!

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