When it comes to email inboxes, there are three types of people in this world: those with a notification bubble filled with a larger-than-life number, those with pristinely kept files and folders, and those (like me) who constantly teeter on the edge of either spotless organization or utter chaos.
Eleven years ago, productivity expert Marsha Egan dedicated a full week to getting your (email) life together by designating the last full week of January as “Clean Out Your Inbox Week.” Since we’re now in that week, it seemed like a good time to do an informal survey of the team at Sachs Media Group. The result: It’s clear that not everything works for everyone – but by taking the time to do a trial run of the following three tips, you could be productively managing your emails in no time.
1. Take Immediate Action
Let me walk you through what used to be Account Executive Daniella Frank’s usual day… Get to work by our start time of 8:30am, begin working on a presentation for her client, receive an email at 11:15am, open it and tell herself she’ll come back to it later, finish her amazing presentation at 5:15pm, fill out the daily timesheet, go home for the day and, finally, wake up in a panic in the middle of the night realizing she forgot to respond to that 11:15am email. Luckily for Daniella, these are the days of the past, thanks to her decision to begin taking immediate action when it comes to her emails. If she’s so far into another task that she wouldn’t be able to break free and respond, she leaves the message unread – but then doesn’t let herself go home with any unread emails in her inbox. This way she is deliberately opening her unread messages with the intention to respond immediately, breaking the habit of just opening messages to let them sit without action.
2. Unsubscribe If You Usually Delete
This is one of the ways I personally stay on top of the constant inbox pileup. If you’re at all like me, you most likely subscribe – willingly or unknowingly – to at least two companies via email per week. For example, in an attempt to be a little more environmentally friendly, I recently opted for an emailed receipt from a store, thinking it would be a one-and-done event. Well, while I’m not wasting paper, I am wasting plenty of space in my inbox – from the moment I made my green decision, the company has continually bombarded me with “3 for $5!” types of junk mail. My solution? Unsubscribe. Take five minutes each month and instead of repeatedly deleting messages from unwanted senders, scroll to the bottom of those messages and click unsubscribe (it’s usually in super-small font so you purposely miss it). By making this a habit, you’ll easily add several productive minutes back into your day.
3. Filter, Filter, Filter
This tip comes from the web master himself. Rob Orr, our director of web design and development, keeps his inbox tidy through the use of Gmail filters. Gmail isn’t the only email service to offer this type of automatic organizing feature – other platforms just call it by different names. For example, Outlook has “Create a Rule” and the Apple Mail app calls its version “Apply Rules.” All the features use a similar format and have a common goal: label, archive, delete, star, or automatically forward your mail. Yes, taking the time to designate rules and set up filters can take a few minutes, but imagine your inbox stress lifted from your shoulders, one filtered message at a time.
According to the Radicati Group’s Email Statistic Report, 2017-2021, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day reached 269 billion in 2017. That number is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.4% over the next four years, reaching almost 320 billion by the end of 2021. Unless you’re going off the grid, having an email account (or three) isn’t something you’re going to discontinue anytime soon. By taking these last days of January to implement one of the inbox-cleaning tips above, you’ll be setting yourself up for a more successful and productive 2018.