Sadly, the days of receiving a letter in the humble mailbox are gone. Email has become the preferred method of contact, and it truly is a marvelous technology; it keeps us connected, informed, and can get us access to free content, exclusive deals and so much more. The 2014-2018 Email Statistics Report estimates that in 2016, there are approximately 4.62 billion email accounts, and on average, each person owns 1.7 email addresses. What's more, 212.1 billion emails are sent and received each day; that's a lot of emails for you to sort through! So what does this information overload do to us? Having an out-of-control Inbox can seriously limit productivity (read about how to be more productive over here). Some report anxiety attacks, others working longer hours just to keep on top of their emails, and those who are naturally flighty, try to avoid their emails at all costs.
So what can you do about it? Doing a simple Inbox Detox is a great start; I can’t promise its painless, but its oh-so-worth-it!
Detox Step 1: Consolidation
Not so long ago, I had 6 email accounts, yep 6. Why you ask? Well at the time, each had a purpose;
- my full time job email;
- my at-home business email;
- my first email address I ever had (hello, dustyangel32);
- a more professional one to successfully “adult” with (enter kfollent);
- my university email; and
- a Hotmail account that I could never bring myself to get rid of, despite the fact it only ever collected spam.
How on earth do I consolidate, I hear you ask? You have to make some tough decisions. Granted, your full time job email can’t go, but consider whether you really need that old Hotmail account or the embarrassing combo of numbers and letters email address.
After deactivating unnecessary accounts, you can consolidate further by creating a forward all email rule for accounts that you actually need, but don't need to access regularly, to an account that you do access regularly, such as your work email or personal email. (Not sure how to do this? Outlook Readers find out here, Gmail Users find out here).
Iphone Users can also add their accounts into the phone's settings, so at the press of the Mail App button, all your emails are at your finger tips.
Detox Step 2: Organisation
This is actually the part I really love - sorting through all the emails and organizing them. (Hey, don’t groan, this is short-term pain for long-term pleasure!)
Firstly, tackle those email subscriptions that have gathered and multiplied in your Inbox. If you no longer want to receive a subscription, you’ll find the ‘Unsubscribe’ option in the footer of each email.
Next, introduce some organisation in the form of Folders or Tags (for the Gmail users out there). Don’t have a clue what your categories could be? You can start off simple, say have 3 categories; "To Action", "For Information" and "Complete". You can get more creative later when you have a better handle/ time to break your categories down. Set up these categories as folders or tags.
Depending on the number of emails in your inbox (I've seen inboxes with in excess of 4000 emails), this may take you a long time. Set some time in your calendar each day/ week to sort through and file the emails.
Detox Step 3: Automation
So you’ve now got a (mostly) squeaky clean inbox, and we need to keep it that way in the most efficient way possible: Automation. If you regularly receive a particular email, you can create rules to automatically send it to a Folder, or highlight it for your immediate attention; for example, if I receive daily emails from cutecats.com, I can create a rule that puts that email into a folder called ‘Subscriptions’, so my inbox stays clear, and when I want my daily dose of fuzziness, I can go into the Subscriptions folder and read my cute cats subscription email; or, if I receive an email from my client, I can set up a rule that highlights their email in my inbox if a particular phrase is mentioned such as "ASAP", so I know I need to read that email first. Read all about rules in Outlook here, and filters in Gmail here.
So that’s it! Three simple steps to detox your inbox and quit the dread of opening your inbox. Email really is an amazing tool, just be sure to give it a bit of TLC every now and then to keep it in tip-top shape.