Trouble dealing with your emails? You are not alone; many people struggle with managing their email inboxes. And it doesn’t matter if you spend all day on the computer for work or if you check in once a day. Too many emails is distracting, it is clutter and it is overwhelming. I’m going to give you some simple steps so you can deal with only what needs your attention so you can stop wasting time. But before we get to that, I want you to think about which problems you may be having:
Do any of these ring a bell? Are you overwhelmed at the number of emails that are waiting for you, both read and unread? Your email inbox should ONLY contain emails that need to be read and/or replied to.
Does that seem impossible? It isn’t. It will take an adjustment to your habits and it will take some time to address the backlog, but you can change your routine and accomplish this!
Unsubscribe — The biggest culprit of inbox clutter are the emails you signed up for (newsletters, sales offers) that you don’t open, read and/or utilize. According to an article in the January issue of Redbook Magazine, this type of email accounts for almost 55% of your unread mail Email1and1. What a HUGE waste of time! Yes, you can delete, but that takes up your time and is on-going. Take the time to unsubscribe to all those emails you NEVER read (but not this one, please). A few tips to help you with some common issues:
Unsubscribe.com – If you find the unsubscribing process irritating and far too complicated (it can be) go to Unsubscribe.com to download a free program that adds an “Unsubscribe” button to your email toolbar. You select the unwanted mail and click the button and you’re removed from the list.
Think you’ll miss out on a great deal? Try removing yourself for awhile (you can always rejoin). You’ll save time and money and you’re bringing less into your home. Still reluctant? Think to yourself — Would I be shopping for X, Y and Z if they were full price? Would I voluntarily visit that site today if it hadn’t been for the email? Do I need any new clothes/shoes/housewares?
Say, “No!” – Don’t sign up for these emails in the first place. You can uncheck the box or update your preferences so you don’t receive marketing emails (special offers). If you start to waiver, remember that refusing the emails now will save you time later.
Feel guilty? You can still support a group, cause or charity even though you don’t receive their emails anymore.
Decide to Delete — Even though you unsubscribed from companies, people will always send you emails you’re not quite interested in and you don’t have time for — forwards, photos, jokes, etc. See who they’re from, check the subject and even open it. Once you see it’s a time waster, DELETE it right away. Do it right then! Never leave an email thinking you’ll delete it later.
There are many companies that send daily emails, like recipes or articles of the day. If you don’t want to unsubscribe from them because you find most of the content relevant and enjoyable, at least know that you will immediately delete recipes that you’re not going to make or articles you don’t have interest in or time to read. For example, I receive a daily recipe and whenever there is salmon in the title, I don’t even open it. Be decisive and deliberate with your inbox. If that guilt creeps up again with things you feel you should read, remember that you are honoring your time, energy and priorities so you can let the rest go.
Reply Now — Many of the emails we receive require a short response. If you know the answer to the query or what you would say, REPLY now! If a task takes less than a minute to complete when you encounter it, do it and be done! Revisiting tasks (emails, mail, paperwork) takes more of your time than if you had done it the first time around.
If you still struggle with this step, set up times to check and respond to personal email and set a time limit — 10 minutes at noon and 4pm to deal with personal emails and/or non-urgent work communication. In fact, setting times to check any email keeps you focused and on-task, especially when there is a more important project to address.
File — Do you save emails in your inbox because you might need or want to refer to them later on? Make folders and FILE them. Every email program is different, but it is so simple and there are always directions to help you or refresh your memory. In my personal email account, I have folders for each member of my family, for orders I place, for upcoming travel, for recipes, for photos, etc. I have 10 emails in my personal inbox that I need to address and I’ll be honest, some are older than others like things I want to look into or something I need to make time to read and research. But I do have a time limit for old emails. If I haven’t made time to address them, then I DELETE.