How many unread emails do you have in your inbox? Dozens? Hundreds? Thousands? If you don’t read an email right when you receive it, will it likely be lost in an ever-growing list? If so, then it’stime to streamline your inbox.
Don’t think managing email should be a priority? It is: An overflowing, untamed inbox can cause you to lose time and focus, and research indicates that the mere perception of email as a distraction can significantly heighten one’s stress level.
Here are four simple steps to help you streamline your inbox:
Unsubscribe from everything.
Yes, everything. This takes time — and it may be a week or two before you see results — but if you really want to clean up your email, it must be done. Just click the link at the bottom of every newsletter, daily-deal notification, political-donation request, etc., and follow the steps to unsubscribe. You can also unsubscribe en masse with apps like Unroll.Me. And going forward, uncheck the box asking permission to send you info when you buy products online, don’t sign up for email newsletters and avoid online contests and giveaways.
Sort and delete unread messages.
Sort your email by sender or topic. Keep in mind that anything more than 48 hours old that you haven’t read yet — or that’s trying to sell you something — can probably be scrapped. (You won’t miss it. Trust us.) Website newsletters from 2006 through yesterday? Select all and delete. Group or chain emailst that you’ve never responded to or even looked at? Gone.
Create folders for everything else.
You can separate these folders by year, quarter or topic. (“Notes To Wife,” “Work Stuff,” etc.) Create each necessary folder, sort your remaining emails by sender or title, then drag and drop the groups into their respective folders. That way, you can keep important messages without cluttering up your daily inbox.
Review your inbox frequently.
Set aside five minutes a day to take a hard look at your inbox and move, respond to or delete whatever’s in there. If five minutes is too much of a time commitment, focus on handling each email only once. It may seem like a pain, but when you open your email and see a clean, uncluttered screen, it’ll all be worth it!