So, I have a confession to make.
I have 817 emails in my inbox.
Except that wasn’t the confession. The confession is that I once had over 1,500 emails in my inbox until I started cleaning it out this week, and now I’ve gotten it down to 817.
I’m the worst email hoarder there ever was. I wish there was a Kon-Mari method for decluttering my inbox. As I crawl out from this mess I’ve created for myself, I realize there are several things I’ve been doing wrong over the past few years that have lead to this inbox madness.
Do you make any of these mistakes? (If so, don’t worry! You can learn from them, too. There’s still hope for us!)
1. Not having a “junk” email address
If you asked me what percentage of my inbox was junk mail, I’d tell you barely any of it. However, upon further investigation, emails from stores, brands, product subscription services, etc actually take up a LOT (and I mean A LOT) more of my inbox than I had previously realized.
When you talk to really organized people (those people with pristine inboxes) you’ll realize that they have several different email addresses for different purposes. One of them is a “junk” email address. You know, that you use to sign into your Groupon account, or shop on those sites that require an email address in order to shop. Those really add up and can be the biggest culprits of inbox clutter–to avoid this in the future, I’m planning to create a separate email specifically for this purpose.
2. Marking messages “unread” thinking you’ll go back to them later
Back when I worked at a corporate job, this was my go-to trick, and it really worked for me then. However, for whatever reason, trying to implement the same in the freelance world simply has not worked at all. I mark so many messages unread that they get buried in the second and third pages of my gmail, and then never seen again. This is because I spend a lot less time on email (and more time getting stuff done) than I did at my corporate job–where my #1 task was to respond to emails as quickly as possible. If your job is outside of client service and exists independently of email, this will probably be more of a death sentence to your inbox, rather than a great productivity hack.
Instead, try creating a “to respond–urgent” folder, and a “to respond–not urgent” folder, and you’ll have an easier time keeping track of what requires your attention.
3. Not deleting as you go
I never delete messages as I go. I wait until Gmail starts screaming at me to purchase more storage, and then start massively deleting messages (and actually deleting ones that matter in the process.) Deleting unimportant emails as you go is essential to keeping a tidy inbox.
4. Not scheduling weekly clean out sessions
This is an effective strategy when it comes to keeping my apartment clean, and not surprisingly, is equally as effective when it comes to keeping a de-cluttered inbox. Pick one day per week (at least) to go through all of your emails for the week–deleting, filing, sorting, and responding to those you’ve put off to the side.
5. Being too lazy to unsubscribe
Had I not been too lazy to just press “unsubscribe” every time an email I don’t want hits my inbox, I wouldn’t be in the “817 unread emails” predicament I’m in right now. Much as “cleaning as you go” works, so does “unsubscribe as you go.”
Unroll.me has been a lifesaver for me personally. It’s an easy tool that rolls up your email subscriptions all in one place, allowing you to bulk unsubscribe in just the click of a button. Phew!