Have you ever wasted time looking for an email that you know you should have? Of course! We’ve all been there. When you have a cluttered or messy inbox, you cannot possibly keep on top of every communication. Even though you can’t always control what comes into your email, you do have control over how you manage all those emails.
A clean inbox boosts your productivity as you waste several minutes every day looking for things that you know you need, but you just cannot seem to find. For some of us, those minutes add up to hours within a month. It’s frustrating when you miss deadlines or forget to follow up on something that was actually important because you could not find the email.
A messy inbox is a huge time waster, and you’ll find yourself much more productive when you’re not distracted by this scenario. Take the time to sort your way out of the mess you’re in.
Here’s how to get there.
Scan the Spam
I like to start organizing by emptying the spam folder. It doesn’t take long and give me instant gratification.
Often, we are afraid to clear out the Spam Folder because we’re afraid that we might inadvertently delete an important message. The spam filters are doing their job, catching the junk before it clogs up your inbox. However, you are right to hesitate on deleting the folder.
Therefore, before you hit the “select all” option and delete your spam messages, give them a quick scan. A thorough once-over will reassure you that you have captured all your important communications.
Also, be sure to add those senders to your “Trusted Sender” list to be sure to capture future messages.
Segment by Date
Realistically, you don’t have the time to read every single item that appears in your box. If you did, you wouldn’t be in the situation that you’re in right now. You are also fairly certain that there could be an important message or two that perhaps you overlooked, so you don’t want to delete everything.
Instead of mass deleting older messages, create a folder system. Create a folder for each month and place all those emails in each monthly file. Be sure the label contains the month and year. For example, last month’s file would read: Nov_2018. This way, when your co-worker asks if you received an email and insists that she sent it on a certain date, you can head to that dated file and easily retrieve the message.
On the first day of each month, make it a habit to move all of the messages that you never acted on into this folder. Segmenting by date will allow you to retain the date in a way that makes sense.
Prioritize Actionable Items
Some emails are kept in your inbox because you know you need to act upon them. These could be assignments from your manager, a file a team member needs from you, or even a grocery list from your spouse.
The point is, you know you need to do something.
Keep these items handy by using the “flag” or “star” icon to denote these messages as actionable items. You’ll be more likely to see it, act on it, and respond in a quick and efficient way that makes you look like a rock star.
You might clean out your inbox periodically, only to find that it quickly fills back up with random junk that you don’t want or need. The key is to try to take steps to stop future onslaughts of unnecessary communications.
Just as a vaccine is a preventative medicine to keep your body healthy, you can take prevent your email box from getting congested.
Here are some things you can do to help to squash the volume of incoming messages and go for inbox zero.
Adjust your Spam Filter. If tons of unwanted, spammy emails are making their way into your inbox, adjust your spam filter. You may have it set to capture only the spammiest of messages, leaving a gap for other spammy emails to worm their way into your inbox. This is usually in your “Settings” tab of your email.
Don’t publish your email address online. A few years ago, companies wanted to “humanize” their websites and put staff photos and bios on their websites. Awesome! However, publishing your company email address leaves staff members open to unwanted emails such as spam, or even worse, phishing schemes. Instead of publishing email addresses, include a contact form to mask and protect company email addresses.
Don’t unsubscribe. It may sound counterintuitive, but don’t unsubscribe to spam. When you unsubscribe, you are unwittingly confirming to the spammer that they had reached a valid email address.
Change Your Habits
Now that you’ve swept your spam file clean, segmented your unread emails by date, prioritized important items you must act on, and increased your spam filter, there’s only one thing left to do.
Unfortunately, this is the hardest part of keeping a clean inbox.
You must change your habits to become more productive and attain inbox zero. If you continue to allow piles of emails to sit unread, you will find that your email will deteriorate into the same overwhelming state within a few days to a week.
Start to read your emails and delete them when you no longer need them. Move emails which you must retain over to that monthly folder you created. Continue to flag those priority items that you might need to find quickly. Repeat these actions until they become ingrained habits. In the long run, this will amp up your productivity and allow you to remain more focused on the important aspects of your job.
Email is an important business tool. It’s essential for team communication, marketing, customer service, and to increase productivity.
However, when left to grow out of control, it can become a drain on your most valuable resource—your time. On the other hand, an organized inbox is the productivity tool that it was intended to be.
If you’re using EmailMeForm, another way to ensure that you’re only receiving legitimate form notifications in your email is to make sure that your forms are protected from spam. Use Captcha and ensure that you’re using form features to keep your form secure.