Since we are conducting an electronic sort today, we won’t need our regular supplies.
Depending on how frequently you delete email, this will be either an easy hit or a task you’ve been dreading. Like it or not, we live in an age where electronic communication is prolific. Emails and texts are constantly pouring in, and the temptation is to ignore them.
Sometimes this is a smart decision—after all, getting distracted by each incoming message can easily derail us from accomplishing our work. However, we need to schedule regular times during the day to review and process our email, just as we do with the paper that comes into our lives. If we fail to do this, we will end up with a cluttered inbox where we are likely to “lose” important information.
If you are staring at an overflowing inbox, the first thing you need to do is set aside a little time. I suggest you work on a computer, rather than on your phone, so you can sort and see things more easily.
Begin by sorting your inbox by “From” or “Name.” This will enable you to quickly see who sent each email—the most important piece of information for helping you know whether or not to keep it.
Now it will be obvious which emails are spam. I suggest you go into one email from each of the spammers and, if possible, “unsubscribe.” To do this, simply scroll to the bottom of the message and look for the link. Marketers are required by law to provide a way for you to unsubscribe. As a second line of defense, mark at least one of each as “spam/junk” using your email options. This should result in emails from this sender being caught in your “spam” folder in the future. Once you’ve done this, go through, highlight in large blocks, and delete.
After you have gotten rid of the obvious spam, the next step is to sort through those that may have content you either need to remember, act on, or respond to. To help with this process, create folders in your email with these names. As you read each email, either:
- Delete it (it is old, you missed the window for responding, it is irrelevant, etc.)
- Move it to “Respond” folder (you need to make a decision and get back to someone)
- Move it to “Action” folder (you need to perform some task before you can delete it)
- Move it to “Hold” folder (you don’t want to delete it, but you don’t want it sitting in a general inbox where you will forget it.)
You may want to create sub-folders within these three that help you. For example, within the “Hold” folder you may have categories such as “Reference” or “Upcoming Events” or even “Photos.”
If you are working with a business email inbox, you may wish to use different/additional categories, such as one for each client, one for accounting/expenses, one for office updates, folders for networking/professional groups, etc.
**Be prepared for this to take awhile, and you may only have the patience to work on this task in small blocks of time. This is fine, just keep at it until you are finished, even if you need to come back to it over the weekend.**
To take email management one step further (perhaps a project for another day….), consider adding some filters to your email inbox. Filters automatically route emails from predetermined senders or with designated “keywords” into the folders you choose, saving you time.
Unlike some of the other projects we’ve been tackling this month, the email inbox needs to be cleared out much more frequently than once or twice a year. It should be addressed at least daily, if not more often. Each person handles this responsibility differently, but if you find you hate this task, and tend to procrastinate, make a conscious effort to use your “down time” (e.g. in the pick-up line, “on hold,” at the airport, etc.) to pull out your phone and delete, delete, delete.
What tools do you use to keep your email under control?