How many emails do you have in your inbox?
So how many emails do you have sat unchecked in your inbox? I had a message from a lady yesterday who had 16555!!!! And yes, she told me this was not a typing error!! This is a frightening thought. If you have read the article The dangers of an overflowing inbox you will know that this could be costing her business a great deal of money from missed opportunities and disgruntled clients.
But if you find yourself in this situation, or something rather less extreme but still rather concerning, read on to find out what to do.
How to clear and control your email inbox
Firstly, if you have anything like the amount of undealt with emails as above, you are going to have to be ruthless. It takes time for this amount to build up so, in the law of averages, anyone who had anything you needed to respond to will have probably given up on you by now.
Block out a day to deal with them
To really sort out your inbox problem, you are going to have to put aside some time.
Block a day out in your diary and turn off everything apart from your emails. That means your phone, Facebook and anything else that is going to distract you.
The five-second rule
Sort your emails in reverse order and then be strict. Click on each one and give yourself no more than 5 seconds to decide whether to ditch it or deal with it. I don’t mean deal with it now. I mean that it is important enough to keep and deal with later. If you haven’t made the decision within 5 seconds, the decision has been made for you. Go ahead and hit delete.
Be strong here folks. It is the only way you are going to get through this with the minimum amount of pain.
Now based on the extreme example above of 16,555 emails, using this method would take a full 23 hours to complete and that is not allowing for any comfort breaks, food or drink breaks or your eyes giving up completely on what they are focusing on.
So in this scenario, I would simply go in and delete all but the last two months’ worth of mail (or even more than that if you get over 150 emails per day).
Hopefully by the end of this, and yes it will take time, you will have a slightly more manageable number to deal with so give yourself a pat on the back.
Block out more time
Yes, more time is needed. These emails didn’t all pop up at once overnight so don’t think they can all be dealt with instantly.
You now need to go back and once again in reverse order, deal with them. This does not mean reading them and saving them for later or putting them into a folder. You won’t ever get back to them. Deal with them or delete. Ruthless and simple once again. If you need to send a reply to someone, make it short and sweet. Try and keep it to a one-liner where possible.
If you have subscribed to newsletters and have articles you want to read, later on, my guess is that you won’t have time, so get rid of them and have a clear inbox to read new articles as they come in. If you really have to keep them, send them to Evernote or create a folder on your bookmarks bar and save each article in there.
How to keep future emails under control
Once you have completed the mammoth challenge, give yourself a HUGE pat on the back and give yourself a treat – I believe treats are incredibly important to reward ourselves having done a good job!
But how are you going to control your inbox in the future?
First of all, go visit Unroll Me. This is a neat bit of kit (and free) that lets you see how many sites, newsletters etc you have subscribed to. It can be quite scary! It will scan your inbox and then give you the option of choosing which subscriptions you want to keep and which you want to delete. You will probably find that you have signed up to numerous ones just to get a freebie or access to a site, so if the site no longer interests you, get rid of it.
As the site says:
With just one click, you can unsubscribe from the emails that you never want to see again. And for the subscriptions, you’d still like to receive? Add them to your Rollup! Instead of being bothered with newsletters and deals every 3 minutes, your subscriptions are organized into one daily email, sent to you at the time of your choosing.
Make sure you put all your non-work subscriptions into Rollup and have them delivered at a time when you are not normally working. I set mine for the evening when (hopefully) I have finished work and am on downtime.
Dealing with new emails
Remember how you dealt with all those old emails? That is exactly how you need to deal with new ones. You read, take action, and delete or save. No scrolling through to see which ones you want to read. Deal with and move on.
This does take practice, but I promise you, it is worth it when you get the hang of it.
If you really struggle, have just one folder titled ‘to deal with later’. Diarise once a week to go through this folder and anything that gets to one-month-old needs to be deleted. If you haven’t dealt with it by now, you never will.
Getting and keeping emails under control is an important daily process that will help you be more productive and help you make sure you don’t miss that all important gem that you may have otherwise missed.