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Getting Control of Your Email Clutter

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Do you have email clutter?

Even though your email clutter will never visibly clutter up your work-space, I can guarantee that it will clutter your mind and severely decrease your productivity, time management, and ability to find what email you need when you need it.

Photo Source: Charles Williams

And just like stacks of paper and files on your desk can be stressful, a big stack of emails in your Inbox can also be stressful.

In today's media-centric society, it's not uncommon to get 50-100 emails (or more) in a single business day. All those emails coming in can be a bit overwhelming; and if you don't have a great system to manage them, your Inbox can quickly spiral out of control and soon you'll be scrolling through 1,800+ emails to find the one email you actually need.

I used to feel overwhelmed with my email until I starting implementing a few very simple principles that have drastically reduced the amount of email clutter I have in my Inbox.

No matter what email platform you use or how many different email accounts you have, these simple tips will help you to drastically reduce the amount of email clutter you have and in turn, increase your productivity at work and at home.

1. Unsubscribe.

If I find any spam, e-newsletters that I did not subscribe to, coupon offers, promotions, or anything else that I don't want to read in my Inbox, I immediately unsubscribe from their mailing list. I've been doing this for a while and it's amazing how quickly my inbox shrinks! It only takes a few extra minutes up front, but I think you'll be surprised at the results.

2. Trash any emails you don't need.

After you unsubscribe from the above emails, you should immediately put them in your "trash bin". Don't let them continue to take up precious real estate in your Inbox!
Similarly, if you get an email that is just for informational purposes {like the time of a meeting} or only needs a very short response, simply note that time and/or send your response and then trash the email.

3. Create and use folders, categories, or files.

Depending on what type of email interface you use, you will almost certainly have the option to create "folders", "categories", or "files" to organize the emails you want and need to keep for longer periods of time.

Some ideas of folders or categories you might want to create are:

  • Urgent or Follow Up
  • The names of coworkers or your boss -- of you tend to receive lots of emails from them
  • The names of specific projects or clients
  • The names of different committees or groups you are involved in
  • The names of different companies you work for -- this is a great idea for contractors or freelance workers
  • Personal -- if you get your person emails to the same account

This list could go on and on depending on your situation. But if you don't have any type of email filing system; take some time to think about possible category/folder names and then use them to file those emails that you know you'll need to refer back to but don't necessarily need to keep in your Inbox for weeks and months at a time.

4. Schedule specific times to check your email each day.

I find that setting specific times to check my email throughout the day saves me SO much time. Since there are always emails coming in, I constantly get distracted by the "new message" icon that pops up. However, if I close down my email and only check it at specific times during the day, I stay focused and ultimately save myself a bunch of time in the long run.

Depending on what type of job you have, you may be able to get away with only checking your email 3 or 4 times per day (first thing in the morning, before lunch, mid-afternoon, and evening). That would be ideal; however, I know it will not work for everyone.

Currently, I spend about an hour every morning catching up on any emails from the night before and then I allow myself 15-30 minute blocks of time throughout the day to check and respond to email. I'm still able to weed through the majority of my emails in that time and I'm so much more productive the rest of the time.

5. Use your email time wisely.

When you do finally sit down to check your email, decide which ones need your attention and which ones can wait. Respond to the important emails first and then work your way through the rest. Then at the end of the day, you can spend a bit more time unsubscribing, deleting, and filing the emails that have piled up in your Inbox.

By implementing a few of these very simply strategies; your Inbox will be much more organized, you'll save valuable time, you'll be more productive, and you'll have less stress!
Believe it or not, at the end of each day, my Inbox almost always has less than 5 emails -- and on good days, I'll totally clear it out. This makes a great way to start the next working day!

 

Comments

San Diego Office Furniture October 30, 2011

I do #s 1,3, and 5 faithfully. I’m a real email hoarder and obsessive email checker, so I’m still working on #s 2 and 4! Thanks for the advice.

Daisy
http://www.sandiegocubicles.com/blog

Michelle November 4, 2011

So nice to see you writing for Turnstone Andrea!  Also, thanks again for helping me get my office organized!

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