5 Tips To Make Life Inside Your Inbox Easier

Filed in Tips and Tricks by on February 16, 2010 0 Comments

We’ve all been there.  You know, the day you return from your awesome hiking experience in the mountains and your email inbox has over 100 new messages.  You knew it was coming.  The cabin in the mountains didn’t have Internet access and your messages were piling up.  What do you do?  How can you make sure this problem doesn’t arise in the future?

It’s easy to get a cluttered inbox.  I should know.  For three or four years, my inbox had over 1,000 items in it.  I simply disregarded organization and let the emails sit, searching for important data when I absolutely needed.  But, I recently cleaned up my act (and my inbox) and now I live a clutter-free life in my inbox.  How did I do it?

Tip 1: Make folders.

I can’t stress this tip enough.  Inbox folders make your life much easier.  They allow for you to file emails away that you need to keep, giving you an organizational structure.  Once you read a message, move it to the inbox and, on occasion, go through and purge unwanted messages from each folder.

It would be good to start with a few folders and expand as necessary.  For example, folders for client information, orders, and employee communications would be a good start.

Tip 2: Use the “delete, move, keep” system.

When you have thousands of messages, it can be tough to figure out where to start the cleaning process.  The good news is that you can start anywhere and with any message.  The easiest way to reduce your inbox size is to use the “delete, move, keep” system.  When you come across a message, decide if the message should be deleted, moved to a different folder, or kept in the inbox.  To avoid unnecessary inbox clutter, make sure that only current action items stay in your inbox.  So, the email from a client two years ago needs to be deleted or moved.  Once you have completed the required action on the email, delete it move it to a new folder.

Tip 3: Don’t bend the rules – ever.

I have found it very tempting to bend the inbox rules every now and then.  I tell myself, “Oh, it’s OK to leave this old message in your inbox.  It’s only one message…”  No, that isn’t going to work.  In order for the system to be effective, you must avoid bending the rules or making exceptions.  Every message in your inbox can be deleted, moved, or kept.  Don’t move items that should be deleted and don’t keep items in your inbox that should be moved.  If you do, you’ll have another mess of clutter.

Tip 4: Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe.

Want to know the biggest cause of inbox clutter?  Useless messages.  No matter who you are, you probably have messages from blogs, online stores, or marketing agencies, in your inbox.  Take note right now that these messages can quickly ruin inbox cleanliness.  If you don’t or rarely read the messages, unsubscribe to the email alerts.  What’s the point of cluttering your inbox with messages you aren’t reading?  There is none.

Tip 5: Be proactive.

No one else is going to manage your inbox for you.  If you don’t clean it up or keep it clean, who will?  Be sure to stay proactive with cleaning your inbox.  If you have an action item to be completed, do it.  If you need to delete or move a message, do it.  When you stop being proactive with your inbox, you lose control.  Stay in control and you’ll find that having a clean inbox is the way to go.

Eric Alpin is the Associate Editor of Folk Media and works for a telecommunications company in Baltimore, Md. He is a social media enthusiast, blogger, writer, and student with a passion for leadership and self-development strategies and techniques. Find out more about Eric on Twitter.

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*Photo by lusi

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