Founder, MSPintegrations Husband Speaker Author
Thoughts on Business, Church, and Life
Recently, I decided that I should at least try to keep my email inbox under control. I set a goal of looking at every single email that’s in my inbox at least once a week. For the past month or so, I’ve done pretty well. Here’s what I did.
When I decided to take this on, I knew I couldn’t start with a full inbox. I had tens of thousands of messages in my inbox. Many of the messages were bulk mail from vendors or other mailing lists, a whole lot were automated notifications for systems I monitor at work, and some of them were probably personal emails written to me that I had never seen or replied to. But I had to start somewhere, so I decided to pick a cut off date and simply ditch all the email that was older than a month. I figured if a message was a month old, and I hadn’t yet seen or replied to it, that it probably wasn’t relevant any longer. If it was relevant, I figured it would come back.
I couldn’t bring myself to throw the emails away, so I created a new folder called “To Be Reviewed,” and I moved all the older email to that folder. This way, I could convince myself that the emails were there if I ever decided to go back and review them. Even though I knew that was never going to happen, it made me feel better about the whole process.
Once I had only a month’s worth of emails in my inbox, the task felt manageable. I set aside a few hours early one morning, and I went at it.
There are a few things I do to keep my inbox under control.
Throughout my week, I often open emails that need followup but I can’t get to them right when I first see them. Instead of leaving those messages in my inbox, I “flag” them for followup and then file them in my archived mail folder. The mail doesn’t stay in my inbox, but it’s really easy to show a list of flagged email that need followup when I have a chance to reply to them.
During my weekly inbox cleanup, I first tried to sort the messages by date (because it seems logical, right?). After a few minutes, I realized that sorting by the sender of the message helps me cut through the messages faster. If I have multiple messages from a single source, they all show up next to each other, and it’s really easy for me to make a single decision about all of the messages at once.
In the Mail application on OS X, there’s an “Archive” button. I had to add it to my tool bar (right-click > Customize Toolbar), but now it’s really easy to file a message. With a single click, the email leaves my inbox and goes to my Archived Mail folder. Voila!
Before I read through the messages, I search my inbox for the word “Unsubscribe”. This shows me most of the bulk messages in my inbox. I spend a few minutes unsubscribing from as many of them as I can before I manually sort through the rest of the legitimate mail in my inbox.
I created a few “Smart Folders” in my Mac OS X Mail program. This makes it easier to see, with a single click: flagged mail, mail in my inbox, unread mail, mail that contains “Unsubscribe”, mail from a particular address, etc.
Like I said earlier, I try to keep my inbox at zero by going through the messages at least once a week. I’m not perfect, and I’m sure I’ll fall behind again soon enough. I won’t be afraid to cut bait and move all the old email into my Archive folder without reviewing it so that I have a fighting chance of actually getting through the inbox.
Do you have any tips for keeping your inbox at zero?
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I maintain a zero inbox everyday, though I only receive about 50-100 emails a day.
HOWEVER, I respond immediately (within the day) to everything.
A response can count as:
or FILE in another folder
(All “TO DO” Items also get immediately flagged in their folder)
Once they go in the trash, they are trashed. If I must keep it or think I need it, I don’t trash it. I file it.
I don’t file “maybe later” Mail at home in the trash, so why do it at work?
Ty – I don’t get what you mean when you say “I don’t file “maybe later” Mail at home in the trash, so why do it at work”.
Can you elaborate?
Great input! thanks for the tips!
Excellent information and your decisions make a lot of sense. I’m going to try some. Thanks for sharing.
My e-mail got hacked a year ago. I reported it to Hotmail and was blocked from my inbox…the loss was great! SO, I now maintain three e-mail addresses — one that I only give out to friends (you and Laura have that one) for which I pay a fee (included in our internet service); the second is a free e-mail address that I use for “desirable” junk such as confirmations for online purchases, weekly air travel specials, Redbox specials, the obligatory address requested by your blog site, etc. that I actually want to receive; the third e-mail address with a different, free e-mail service is the one I use for “junk” such as Pandora notices, store coupons (requested by the store upon checkout), etc.
I look at my personal e-mails several times a day (often from my phone). I answer those promptly and have organizing folders for the ones I want to keep (i.e., photos of our darling grandson that I’ve downloaded to my computer, but I want to keep the cute messages from Luanne about John’s activities in my “family” folder).
I look at my mid-level e-mails a couple times each week, and anything that is truly important, like travel confirmations, I forward to my personal e-mail address to keep in the appropriate folder (I have one for “travel”). Anything that’s not important enough to forward to myself gets deleted.
I look at my junk e-mail address as often as once a week or as little as once a month. I check the “delete all” box and quickly scan the “sender” field to see if there’s anything I want to read. If so, I uncheck that box. Within a couple of minutes, I’ve deleted all but half a dozen messages, and I never leave the inbox without deleting or forwarding the remaining messages. I find myself “unsubscribing” to at least one every time I look at that inbox.
Sorry to have made such a lengthy comment, but I find this system is really working for me. I know that there will never be ANY junk in my personal inbox, just communication with friends and family, so I’m highly motivated to check it often. Each of the e-mail addresses is cross-referenced with one other e-mail address, so should one be compromised, I’ll have an access code sent to the other e-mail address. AND my personal/important e-mail address actually has a support person that I can talk with should I need support!!
How I got to “Inbox Zero” http://t.co/Vd5iK6ZP3W
#email #inbox #inboxzero