I am learning how to be better at organizing email. As I’m writing this, I can see the incoming email notifications pop up on my computer screen. Most of them don’t need any attention, most of them I don’t even want, but they still keep coming! I get really happy when I see one from a real person though!
Have the majority of your emails become junk mail or time wasting emails? Do you procrastinate dealing with emails because you just don’t know what to do with them? Then follow me though these tips for organizing email and help reduce your email clutter.
The main strategy for organizing emails is to read, act, delete or file. I tend to read and then let them sit to do something with later. The easy ones are the ones I delete without even reading, but they still take up my time. But it’s really the read and “I’ll do something with it later” that causes the main pile up in my inbox. Let’s see how we can get our computers to help us out with these functions.
Make sure your spam filters are turned on. I still make a point to glance through the spam before permanently deleting it because somehow, good emails still find their way into spam every once-in-a-while. Be sure to “whitelist” email senders that you want to receive emails from to help the spam software know they are acceptable senders. That means to add them to your address book.
Use filters and rules to automatically file emails into designated folders when you receive them. Outlook, as well as many other email programs give you options to set up rules which can help you to automatically file emails that contain a specific keyword into a folder you designate. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Check out your email program and see what other rules and filtering options you have and how they might help with organizing email. Be sure to test any rules you put in place to make sure you don’t miss important emails.
Another way to help reduce email clutter is to turn off notifications from your favorite social networking sites. If you really want to know what’s up on your favorite site, go and make an intentional visit. Don’t get distracted from your task at hand by those emails that somebody said or did something that can truly wait ‘til your next visit. Otherwise, you’ll be tempted to visit every single time you get one of those emails. Set up your accounts to only receive notifications that you can’t live without, but you can probably do without any of them!
Unsubscribe from legitimate emails that you no longer want to receive. Be careful not to unsubscribe from something that you know is spam or that you don’t know you signed up for. By doing so, you might be confirming your email to a spammer and will actually receive MORE spam. So only unsubscribe to companies etc. that you know you signed up for.
A great way to decide exactly who you need to unsubscribe from is to check out your deleted items folder. My goodness… that’s the thing that made me realize I was wasting my life to emails! If you go into your deleted emails folder and sort by sender, you’ll be able to spot super easily who sends you WAY too many emails that end up getting deleted. Those are the ones that you need to unsubscribe to. Or in the least, make a folder and a rule for them so that they go past your inbox, right into that folder without wasting your time. That way they’ll still be there if you want to read them.
The need to unsubscribe (and stop subscribing) is a biggie for me. I shop online a lot and so I get a lot of emails about special sales and coupon codes. Some companies I shop at regularly and plan to shop at again, so I want their emails, but I am setting up a folder to collect these automatically based on a rule. Then when I am shopping, I can check if any good sales or shipping deals are going on. (If I read them as they come in, I may get sidetracked to go and shop for something I don’t need!) I do need to unsubscribe from some companies that I never shop at. I may have purchased a gift or made a single purchase a long time ago and am now on their email list.
I also need to unsubscribe from a lot of newsletters and notifications from websites I signed up for in the past that simply no longer suit my current lifestyle needs. I even give you permission to unsubscribe from my newsletter if you feel that it’s clutter, though I hope that it’s at least worthy of a quick glance!
An important step in the task of organizing email is to set up file folders to save emails that you may need to reference later. Perhaps you have a folder for store/shopping emails, or school emails, or all emails pertaining to a wedding you’re participating in… whatever your life requires at the moment. When you receive a new email, read it. Then either act on it, delete it, or put it in one of these file folders for future reference. You can also set up rules to have emails automatically go into these folders.
Take a little time every month or so to clear things out if you get behind, or create new folders, or delete old ones. It’s similar to decluttering and organizing the rest of your house. Every item in your house needs a spot to live in your home… every email needs to be dealt with and given a destination.
I hope that these tips help you get a better handle on organizing email and reducing email clutter. I would love to hear other suggestions you may have as well!