How to Empty Your Inbox When it’s Overwhelming.

How to Empty Your Inbox When it's OverwhelmingI 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.

But if you need proof to take my word for it:IMG_6601

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?
inbox
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!).

Follow Nina Bee’s board organized chaos. on Pinterest.

Go forth and prosper! Signature      

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44 thoughts on “How to Empty Your Inbox When it’s Overwhelming.

  1. Caroline @ In Due Time

    This is so helpful! I hate the tabs in gmail too and only have one! I also have all of my non-important stuff (coupons etc) filtered so they skip my inbox and go to other inboxes. That way only when I’m curious to see what is going on in that folder do I have to go look! Otherwise I never have to read the email! I can’t stand have any unread emails. It always has to be a ‘0’ in the inbox for me! Ha, that is type A for ya 😉

    1. Nina Post author

      How did you get rid of the tabs? It is so weird because I am type A in so many areas of my life but it just got out of control and I didn’t know what to do!

  2. Emily

    I definitely need to check out this Unroll.me thing, I think that’s my biggest problem right now. I tend to save some emails in my inbox if they still require action (like posts) and sometimes I email myself if I’m out and about… I know this isn’t the smartest idea and I really should switch over to a Notes app or something but my thing is that if it’s not in front of my face (like an email), I’ll forget about it. Do you use a Notes app or something like that?

    1. Nina Post author

      EMILY. DO I FEEL YOU? I FEEL YOU. When I was younger, I wrote on my hand (my dad LOVED this…not). Then I graduated to emailing myself. I have been doing it for years!!! I don’t use a notes app. I just discovered something amazing about Siri. I am not a Siri fan. I don’t ever use her. But if you say Siri, set a reminder for tomorrow at 11 in the morning for me to email Emily, she will! One time, it was one in the morning, and I asked her to remind me of something for the next day and she asked me if I really meant tomorrow or that actual morning. Too smart for me. I have a few other tricks. But that’s really been helping me not email myself. But I FEEL YOU.

        1. Nina Post author

          I totally agree. I am not friends with Siri. But Bex taught me this and it has been a game changer. Anything else…I find Siri to be useless LOL DOn’t tell her I said so.

    1. Nina Post author

      I always read what was important. I was signed up for so much that I was getting 500-800 emails a day!

    1. Nina Post author

      IT WAS GIVING ME ANXIETY BUT I HAD NO IDEA WHERE TO EVEN START. But it’s handled. So take a breath. (Writing you an email some point today, promise!)

    1. Nina Post author

      I let it get way out of control and then I had no idea how to conquer it. Once I had a plan though…DONE!

  3. Kristen

    This is so funny, I’m the friend that hates 5000000 notifications about emails! I even logged on to my best friends account to delete her emails for her! This is such good advice, I’m forwarding this post to her right now!

    1. Nina Post author

      My friend who originally saw it said that to me: if you won’t do it, I will. Haha. It feels so good now!

    1. Nina Post author

      This was with me handling the emails that needed handling! It was still insane! You can do it!

  4. Becca

    I use multiple inboxes and labels. So, even if something needs to be answered or an action is required, it’s moved out of my main inbox.

  5. La Tache

    Oh my god, I almost had a heart attack reading that you had 50k emails in your inbox!! I am like your friend and hate having notifications on my phone or on my screen, I HAVE to check emails….ha! I am so glad you were able to clean it up!

  6. Jo-Anne

    If I go a few days without checking me emails I end up with a few hundred to sort through, but I do bulk deletes of blog posts that are a few days old.

  7. Kenji

    Oh girl, this is so perfect. I am like your friend, I HATEEE notifications. I’ve always worked in email heavy positions and have always learned to stay on top of my emails. I see 25 emails and I freak because it’s just ridiculous. Ha. I love all your tips! So perfect!

  8. Kati Rose

    I about wanted to cry FOR you when I saw the 50k number. YIKES! That’s almost anxiety worthy. I can’t say enough good things about unroll.me! That is a lifesaver indeed.

    1. Nina Post author

      It was bad. Especially because those 50k probably were useless. It’s not like I wasn’t answering the ones that required attention. But then my mind kept asking what if? Whatever. Mark as read. Archived. Done. zero. 🙂

  9. Anne

    Know what my problem is? reading my email on the go or at work and not wanting to forget the importance of something so I mark it unread and then have to go back and do whatever needs to be done with it later. Consequently my inbox never gets low. I should just unfollow so many companies too; they take up LOTS of my inbox space. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Nina Post author

      That used to be a huge problem for me!!! as for the other, unfollow them or try unroll.me which wraps all of them into one email and you can decide how often you get that single email, like I get it once a week!

  10. Kate @ Green Fashionista

    This is amazing! I’m one of those people that hates notifications on my phone, so I usually keep everything pretty cleaned up. My husband on the other hand has thousands of emails and could care less about trying to get rid of them. This would be a fantastic tool for him (ahem or me) 😀

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