Reducing Inbox Clutter: Part 1 – Clean Out
The dreaded email Inbox! I hear so many people sighing in frustration when even thinking about dealing with their personal and work email. I myself have spent several years fighting that battle as well. Here are a few tried-and-true tips for cutting the clutter so you can focus on what’s really important in your inbox each day.
Fix Up Your Spam Solution
The very first thing to get rid of is the junk that you never asked for and don’t want to look at. Ads for “male enhancement” pharmaceuticals, “make $200,000 a day doing data-entry!” promises, and all manner of financially dangerous scams and phishing messages should ideally never even make it to your inbox. The best line of defense is at the server-level – have your server admin tweak settings to clear out the majority of garbage while protecting non-spam messages. My personal preference is to have all spam messages shunted to a separate folder for daily quick visual scan and deletion. In addition to server-level protection, there are likely “Junk Mail” settings you can personalize in your email client of choice. If there are certain types of spam slipping through your server-level filters, you can often take care of them yourself locally.
Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe, Unsubscribe
If you are getting a lot of legitimate “commercial” email (newsletters you have subscribed to, announcements from shopping websites you frequent, etc.), you should consider whether you gain value from those messages. Do you ever open them? Do you ever wish you hadn’t bothered whenever you did open them? The truth is, whatever information you actually need is generally available via a search or a quick visit to the company website in question. Many savvy companies operate several separate lists, and you can generally subscribe and unsubscribe from the lists individually.
Reroute Remaining Subscriptions
For any subscriptions that have survived your unsubscribe chopping block, consider how you can shift this less important mail out of your primary inbox. There are two easy ways to do this:
- Re-subscribe using a secondary email account
- Sort them into sub-folders on arrival
The first option is more complicated to set up, but will offer you the best relief – have a separate email address for subscriptions. You can set up a new account on your current domain, or you can use a completely different account. I use a service called Otherinbox to automatically organize my lower-priority email account and send a single “Digest” summary to my main email account daily.
The second option involves setting up automatic sorting filters to automatically move messages from certain senders into a sub-folder of your inbox upon arrival, removing them from your immediate view. This option will be less ideal if you check email in multiple clients (desktop Outlook on one computer, Outlook Web App, on occasion, and on a Blackberry or smartphone) because you would need to set up the same filtering rules on all those separate clients and keep them all updated.
Yay! Less Email!
The main benefit of reducing your inbox load is that it allows you to focus on the most important emails, responding faster. The other less tangible benefit is the reduction of “inbox avoidance” – when you don’t even want to look for fear of having to slog through so much stuff.
Next month, in Part 2, I’ll talk about prioritizing and organizing the emails that are left.