I was recently with a friend who cannot stand notifications on her phone. When she saw that I had over 50,000 emails, she flipped. I’ve known for awhile that my (three) inbox(es) were out of control. But when an inbox is so out of control? It can be so intimidating. How long is this going to take me? Where do I even star? My eyes are bleeding staring at this screen.
I finally put my foot down (also my friend threatened an intervention) and I truly believe that even the worst inboxes can be conquered in under an hour if you follow these steps. I was strategic and it paid off. Just before this post, I was down to 6k in a single inbox and was down to 0 in 20 minutes following these steps.
I’d heard that if your inbox is as bad as mine, you really have to start from scratch. I took that to heart and so “mark as read” and “archive” became my bosom buddies.
Here is how to empty your inbox when it’s overwhelming:
1. Goodbye Social and Promo Tabs (for Gmail)
If you’re using Gmail, delete (or if it makes you feel better, “mark as read” and “archive”) everything in the Promo and Social Tab. You don’t need it. You definitely don’t need to read that so-and-so liked something you tweeted a year ago. Like I said, it you don’t want to delete, just mark as read and archive. In Gmail after you select all on a single page, it will ask in small letters: do you want to select all 4,000 emails in this section? (as opposed to what you have selected on a single page). Use this. Love it. It is your best friend.
2. Look for emails you don’t care about but may have a lot of in terms of keywords. Divide your email by keywords. Find the biggest chunks in your inbox.
If your inbox was a pie chart, what would the biggest piece of pie be? Who from? What company? Is there something in the subject line in each of those emails that is the same and universal? Get rid of as many as these pieces of pie as possible.
So for example, I searched all the emails that contained the word “bloglovin'” and I marked as read and archived them in batches. The same is true with any email with the word “amazon” in the subject line. I looked for as many of these batches as possible before I got into the nitty gritty. I tried to decrease the number of emails I had to go through one by one in any way possible. As a blogger, or someone who comments on blogs, I had so many emails with “new comment” in the subject line, which was a bloggers response to my comment on their blog. Marked as read and archived because some of these are months and months and possibly years old.
3. Sign up for Unroll.me
You know all those emails you’ve subscribed to over the years? Let’s roll ’em up into one email a day. Unroll.me is a great service for this. Get on it.
4. Consider the emails you actually need to respond to or require action.
Everything else should be “marked as read” and “archived.” Remember, you aren’t deleting these and they are easy to search for. They are just out of your face. Do it. Your inbox is too out of control to be emotionally attached to this stuff. This is email. It’s hard enough to purge your actual belongings.
5. Finally, when I got down to about 1,000 emails, I had to delete or archive one by one.
All in all this took an hour and was well worth it. Get rid of the biggest chunks like those emails from Amazon or Bloglovin’ or here is a great one for bloggers “Disqus.” Are you really going to go back weeks or even days and read these? No. But from now on, with your inbox at zero, you can read it and discard it or decide to reply.
You now have a clean slate. After this, delete and archive your emails as you get them. That’s what I am doing now. And you know what? I feel like a grown up. Did I miss any tips?
P.S. I’m really trying to practice a more organized life. I’ve always pinned a ton of cool things on a board called “Organized Chaos” and I am finally in a place where I can put these into action. The title may be in the running for my memoir (totally kidding!).