Even though in recent years we have received lots of new ways to communicate through chat, pictures, and video, email remains strong. Email is still the go-to means of communication for most people online. In particular in business and for professionals.
It is easy for the mail inbox to become a wreck of job inquiries, invitations, and random newsletters. Without keeping your email inbox well organized, answering and browsing through emails easily becomes a time-consuming and difficult endeavor.
At the same time, email is a lot of people’s most important and best communication channel because everything is in one place, it stands still and it is easy to search.
Best tips to sort out your email chaos!
1. Clear the inbox
The most common mistake we make in our email programs is that we leave exactly all emails in the inbox. This is not how email programs are designed and is not a very effective way to manage email.
In all e-mail programs, there is a button to “Done” -select or archive e-mails. This means that the emails are still there but they are no longer in the inbox. So you have not deleted anything, just moved it to the archive.
Make an effort and clear your ENTIRE inbox. If you have a lot of unmanaged emails in your inbox, this will take a long time, I know. But it will be worth it, believe me. Try to mark as many emails as you can and press “Done” or “Archive”. Set aside a moment for this, make a cup of tea/coffee, present something good, have some calm music. See it as a project.
Only leave the emails you have not answered or that you want to read in the inbox.
Tip! This is usually much easier to do at the computer compared to if you try to do it via mobile.
2. Start using the inbox correctly
Now that you no longer have years of email history rippling in your inbox, it’s time to start using your inbox as it’s intended to be used – namely as an inbox. It is not a place where mail should remain but a place for incoming mail only. Just like with your physical mailbox, you should sort everything in it when you open it and make sure the box is empty of new mail.
- First, mark everything that is trash or unimportant. Flag as spam and / or delete immediately.
- Mark what you read but do not have to answer: archive.
- What you can answer quickly (1-3 min): answer immediately, then archive.
- What you need more time to answer: leave in the inbox and plan a reminder for when to answer it. Or snooze / shoot up – see point 5
- Newsletter you do not want: open, scroll to the bottom, click on the link to “unsubscribe”
Inbox zero is an email management method where the goal is that your inbox should always be empty. The approach is about what I pointed out above.
I always strive for inbox zero but unfortunately, it is rarely a reality for me. But the ambition is at least a step in the right direction! Having only relevant things in the inbox makes it much clearer and when I manage to empty it completely, I feel a huge satisfaction and relief.
Search for old emails
We often save old emails in the inbox so that we can easily find them. A smarter and more efficient way is to use the search function and to find among your archived emails. Gmail has a great search function. If you have important emails you need to save (with instructions or similar) create a folder and drag the emails there.
4. Group in inbox (gmail)
For Gmail, there is a great feature where you can collect mail in your inbox by category. For example. campaigns, social media and travel. This means that all newsletters and advertising letters end up in a separate list and do not take up a lot of space in the inbox. Every day, it’s easy to open the list, quickly look through it and see if anything is of value – then archive the entire pile with one click!
5. Snooze, flag, or postpone email
Gmail also has a feature where you can postpone, or snooze, an email. This means that the email is removed from the inbox and returned at a later time of your choice. Tap the clock symbol next to the email you want to postpone.
This can be a good way to clear the inbox, but keep in mind that the email will come back eventually, so it is still something to use with caution so you do not just postpone your problems to the future. But I think this feature is perfect for emails that are not critical and that I know I will have more time to respond to next week or just in a few days.
There is usually absolutely no reason at all for Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to email you. It’s just unnecessary things that fill up your inbox. So if you feel “spammed” by various social media or other sites – take a few minutes and go to the settings on the various social networks and turn off all email notifications. Usually found in settings under notices, emails, or notifications.
7. Get an ugly email
If you, like me, have a tendency to register on various apps, games, and sites in batches and minutes, it can be nice to have a “junk mail” to use that is not your job email / real email (where people send emails).
You can then let your junk e-mail expire in any way if you want – while you keep the condition in the inbox of your real e-mail well-organized and neat.