Once upon a time I was opening one of my inboxes, only to realize that I had over 1,000 unread e-mails- I very nearly ran away from my laptop at that point. I had no system in place to organize my e-mails, so this large number shouldn’t have surprised me yet it did (did I really sign up to receive all those daily e-mails from retail companies? Hmm…perhaps I should join Shopaholics Anonymous!). I felt completely overwhelmed…for about a minute.
As with so many things, I knew that if I swept my inbox organization situation under the rug the problem would not improve by itself. Only I could make sense of my inbox and only I could set it up to be an organizational success for the future. Luckily, e-mail servers have so many organizational tools already built in that it is rather easy to set up a system- it simply takes a bit of time and patience to achieve ultimate inbox sanity. Here are some tips that I learned along the way…
5 Things…to Achieve Inbox Sanity
1. Sign up for Unroll.Me – This relatively new (and free) service is absolutely genius and a total game-changer when it comes to setting the stage for an organized inbox. I highly recommend signing up for this service, as it will pull all the e-mails that you are currently signed up to receive and you will have the ability to edit your subscriptions afterwards. It will pool e-mail subscriptions that you select, so that you only receive one daily e-mail containing links to the e-mails you want to receive – that way, rather than having dozens of emails sent to you each day (like I used to), you’ll only have one Unroll.Me e-mail. For more information, visit their FAQ Page.
2. Designate specific times to check e-mail – For me, this was (and still is) a bit tricky but I find that when I stick with my routine I feel much calmer about my e-mail situation! I chose three times (6am, 12:30pm, and 6pm) that work with my daily schedule – I used to find that I would be checking my e-mail constantly, and this resulted in lots of wasted time as I scrolled through tempting e-mails (J.Crew! Nordstrom! Pottery Barn! Need I go on?), spent time deleting old e-mails, etc.
3. Consider setting up files– Some people are chronic filers/sorters, like myself, while others prefer to leave their e-mails alone in their Inbox. If you’re a filer/sorter, or a wannabe filer/sorter, find your balance so that you’re not over-filing (surprisingly easy to do) or under-filing. Generally, I find that the following folders cover my bases: Family/Friends, Promotional, Work, Reservations & Confirmations.
4. With files, come rules. Set them! – Oh the fun we can have with organizing an inbox! After setting up files, I’ve set certain rules for e-mails sent by specific people/companies so that once the e-mail is received it is automatically sent to the folder it belongs in. Once you set the rule, that’s it- you don’t have to think about it again. The e-mails will magically appear in the right folder, ready for you to read when you have the time to (which, in my case, is at 6am, 12:30pm or 6pm!)
5. When in doubt, THROW IT OUT– this rule applies to most organizing situations and your inbox is no exception. I remember when my e-mails reached over a thousand and I was terrified that I’d never get that number down. It took quite a long time, but after sorting my e-mails and throwing out the majority I have an inbox organizational system that allow me stay sane!