Taking Control of Your Email Inbox

Lidia VarescoIf you’re like me, your email inbox is currently out of control. Since one of my goals for 2011 is to keep a tidier inbox, I’ve decided to take charge and hit delete.

Tactics to control your email inbox

  1. Print: When an important email hits my inbox, I print it immediately. This is a good safeguard if your email program crashes or you accidentally hit delete.
  2. Unsubscribe: Personally, I have a tendency to sign up for every interesting newsletter that I come across. This leads to an inbox full of newsletters that I don’t have time to read. I decided to take charge and unsubscribe from those that I don’t read regularly (see #3 below).
  3. Follow: If I’m not reading a newsletter but want to stay updated, I’ll just follow the business on twitter (most businesses post their latest newsletter on twitter).
  4. File: After a client project ends, I file away all related emails in client folders. I save them for a short period of time (just in case!) eventually deleting as necessary.
  5. Search & delete: An easy way to clean up the inbox is to do a keyword search for common emails (i.e. “Office Depot”) This way, you can delete all old emails from a sender in one fell swoop.
  6. Save: Many times I save an email because it contains a link to a useful website. I started deleting the emails and instead saving the links in Evernote, an app that allows you to create “notebooks” and save snippets such as web pages and images.

Oh, and another reason not to overload your email inbox is the possibility of losing your data. Last summer, my email application suddenly and inexplicably crashed. Thanks to a fairly recent backup, I only lost a month’s worth of email. But it would have been less problematic if I had been managing my email messages better, rather than letting them pile up.

Any more tips to add?

Happy deleting!

7 thoughts on “Taking Control of Your Email Inbox

  1. Jennifer

    Hi Lidia,

    I agree with your recommendations and advice. Your tips are excellent.

    In addition to printing important emails, here’s a suggestion to add to your list.

    When paying for bills or invoices online, print out the receipt or proof of purchase (payment) as you go. I find it’s easy to forget about e-bill payments (in emails) that an accountant might need for year end.

    So I print e-bills as I go, rather than later. It’s a time saver.

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  3. Kirk Roberts

    Here’s a tip: stop using your email as a task management / reminder system. If you ever find yourself going back to your email to remember what you need to do, it’s time for a change. Get a real task manager (eg OmniFocus) and push any “to do” emails there.

    Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero” tips are indispensible. A bit to read, but often humorous, and can truly transform your approach to email: http://inboxzero.com/articles/

  4. Doug C.

    I always create folders in my email program (Thunderbird) for things like Accounts, Important, Clients, etc. Then I just keep relevant emails in there and when I go to delete emails I don’t have to worry about accidentally deleting the good ones.

  5. lidia varesco design

    I would add one more item to my list: Filter.

    I just started creating filters for common non-project emails I receive, i.e. LinkedIn groups, small biz newsletters, industry-related updates. These emails are automatically filed when they are received. Then, I can easily go through a “category” in one fell swoop — instead of going slowly email by email in my Inbox.

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