I don't know about you, but my email inbox is completely out of control. It seems like no matter how hard I try, I have so much stuff that isn't important mixed in with the stuff that's really important that it's really easy to end up missing a message that's crucial.
It seems that I'm not the only one who is plagued with this problem. Cluttered email inboxes, have a huge effect on overall productivity. If you aren't sure how much spam and unwanted messages costs you or your company, Google has a great spam calculator that can help you find out. I tried it and was shocked to see how the minutes really add up.
If you are having this problem too, there are a couple things you can do. Some people have actually gotten so fed up with the never ending and growing avalanche of email that they've declared “Email Bankruptcy”, where they simply delete all of their messages that are older than a set date. Although I'm not encouraging anyone to do something that drastic, there are a few programs that can help you manage your messages and prevent those important emails from getting lost.
First, there are services like Inbox Zero, Trio, and Unroll.me. They each offer different solutions to the problem, from organizing messages into a series of folders to consolidating all of your marketing emails and daily deal messages into one daily digest, they are only good solutions if you're committed to really using them. Otherwise, it's just one more step that makes things more complicated.
If you want to get your email under control, once and for all, it's important to first get honest about what's causing the problem. Look at your inbox and evaluate the messages that you don't even open. For me, these are typically messages from Amazon or dating sites that I haven't visited in a long time. I don't want to delete my Amazon account and I'm not ready to completely take down my dating profile, and to be honest, there are times when I want to see these messages. If this is a problem for you, you can create a new folder and title it “Advertising” and send all of these emails directly to the folder, so they will be there when you want to see them, but won't clutter things up.
Next, review your inbox to find the messages that are the most important. In my case, these would be messages that are work related or emails from friends and family. If you use Gmail, you can star these people to make them stand out at a glance. Also, Gmail provides a “priority inbox” option that allows you to change your inbox view to only see messages from people that you've marked important. What's really nice is that the filter is always learning. If you frequently respond to messages from certain people or never even read mail from others, the priority filter will automatically adjust based on your usage.
If these steps don't help and you are still spending too much time dealing with your messages, you can try out a new service called Boomerang. For me, out of all of the email organizing programs, this one shows the most potential. It includes features that allow you to resend a message to yourself at a specific time. You can also chose to send an email at a future date, allowing you to write those 3:00am emails and have them sent later in the day.
Getting a grip on your email is really important and even though it takes a little time up front, it's one thing you can do that will boost your productivity all year long. If you have been living in email denial or feel like you should be on a new reality show titled “Email Hoarders: Buried Alive,” make it your resolution this year to clean up the mess.
Are you overwhelmed by your email account? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
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