As we continue our journey to find ways to bend time this season on the podcast, a conversation about one of the biggest time thieves just has to be addressed—which is email! While your inbox definitely has some pluses, it can also be a cumbersome beast if you let it.
This is just part of the discussion we’re having this week on Episode 123, but I think that it definitely bears some closer inspection!
I want to help you find ways to spend less time on your email so that you can be more effective when you actually do want to hop on and connect with your friends, family, and colleagues. In other words, I don’t want your inbox to own you – It should be the other way around instead.
So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at how you can get back in the driver’s seat when it comes to your email by focusing on a few ways that you can declutter inbox quickly and easily!
Ready to jump in?
How often have you submitted your email for a great coupon or percentage off of an order from a company you’ve discovered? It happens a lot, and sometimes we don’t realize just how much we have actually surrendered our email address to sales gimmicks and the like until we look at our inbox in the morning and find hundreds of emails containing ads, coupons, and just plain ole SPAM.
So, here’s a simple trick that you can do to declutter your inbox: Unsubscribe!
While you probably just delete most of the unwanted emails from your inbox each time you log in, the truth is… deleting them takes time that you could otherwise spend on something else. So, an easy way to gain some of that time back is by unsubscribing from about 90 percent of the lists that you’re on.
And I know, 90 percent sounds like a lot… but how quickly can you access the emails that actually matter to you with so many marketing emails cluttering your inbox?
Let’s be real… Unless you’re actually planning on going to Gap every day, then chances are you don’t need the daily advertising emails, right?
So, when in doubt, just click the unsubscribe button at the bottom of the emails you receive. Trust me, you’re better off in the long run without them!
If you use Gmail for your email provider, then you may want to check out a pretty great feature that Gmail offers called the Priority Inbox. It’s a great time saver, but even more than that… it can actually boost your productivity when it comes to your email.
In a nutshell, the Priority Inbox puts new emails into two different places within your inbox—one for the emails that it considers are important and another for those that appear unimportant, all based on the sender and the subject line.
This helps provide a little relief from the constant flow of messages, because Priority Inbox automatically separates the potential spam from emails that may require your immediate attention. That way, rather than opening up your email and seeing 200 messages waiting for you in one place, for example, you can see that out of those 200… only 10 may actually require a second look.
Creating folders specific to different aspects of your life, your job—and so on, is a great way to easily classify your emails… especially if you find that you receive more than your fair share every day.
A few ideas for folders you can create for yourself include: Bills; Meetings or Appointments (reminders, etc.); Work; Home; etc.
Granted, the ideas above may be a little generic depending on exactly how much you have on your plate, but the idea here is that you can create folders that are customized to your life and the things that you need to keep track of.
Not only that, but if you use the same email address for both home and work, then setting up folders is a great way to create boundaries between both of those worlds!
I actually had never heard of this before, but one app that works really well to declutter your inbox is called Boomerang. It’s a free plug-in for both Firefox and Chrome, and it works well with Gmail.
Boomerang can help put you back in control over your inbox by allowing you to schedule emails to send in the future, bring an email back into your inbox when you need it (think flight itineraries; appointment reminders; etc.), or even return a sent email back to your inbox if you haven’t received a reply in a certain number of days.
Instead of hanging onto all of these things so that you don’t forget about them, Boomerang is nice because it allows you to clear them out of your inbox (for now) and have them come back later when you actually need it.
This is one of my absolute favorite techniques to calm the chaos of my inbox, and it’s something that I find you can do quickly (with some practice) each time you log in with new messages waiting for you.
When it comes to batching emails, for me, it usually goes something like this… I open up my email program, hit refresh, and all of the new emails start filling up the inbox. After that happens, I skim through them and I quickly try to take action as I move along.
My goal here is to only touch emails once if I can, and then I move on!
The trick to make the batching process a relatively quick one is to classify your emails into categories. I have five categories that I use to classify mine, and while I discuss them further on Episode 123 this week, I’ll do a quick recap of the five that I use below:
First category: DELETE – This encompasses the junk mail, ads, SPAM, and other things you don’t really want in your inbox 24/7.
Second category: DESIGNATE – These are the emails that contain important information and that can be quickly organized for future reference or use.
Third category: DELEGATE – These are the emails that require action from someone else, that can (should) be forwarded to the right person and then removed from your inbox.
Fourth category: TO DO – These are the emails that take just a touch more effort than the rest. They may require a quick reply, or you may need to add them as a quick task or an event on your calendar before you delete the email.
Fifth category: DEFER – These are the emails that, unlike those in the other categories, require a little more than two minutes. The trick here is to move them into an action needed folder so that, after you’ve done the initial sort through your inbox, you can come back later and spend the time needed.
And that’s it! Once you’ve combed through your inbox and have either deleted, designated, delegated, done, or deferred… You might be surprised by how much more in control you feel over the flow of your inbox, and how little time you’re actually spending tending to each message as a result.
What are some of the ways that have helped you overcome the chaos of your inbox? Share any of your own tips and tricks in the comments below… And head over to Episode 123 of Productivity Paradox to learn even more about how you can spend less time on your email!