We are a few months into the year and all that end of the year email cleanup you did probably seems like it didn’t happen at all. How many emails do you have in your inbox at this moment? Is there only a handful or are there 100’s or 1000’s?
I think that if you have more than 100 emails in your inbox that it is too many and can cause you to feel disorganized and overwhelmed. A simple clean up and organization strategy can help improve your efficiency and flow and will prevent the buildup from happening again.
What emails should you be keeping in your inbox?
I think you should only keep ACTION items in your inbox and file the rest. I will confess, I use to use my inbox to keep all emails and only highlight the ones that I needed to action on. This quickly saw my inbox grow to numbers in the, 1000’s! So I started to use my inbox as my to-do list and file the rest.
This will take some work, but will prove to be worth it – trust me. Here are 5 steps to getting your inbox in tip top shape:
1. Delete, delete and delete.
If you were like me and had 1000’s of emails it may take some time, but go through all emails and delete any that you have never read, and don’t intend to. Delete those emails that say “thanks”, are jokes or are newsletters that you just do not read. If there are emails you are keeping simply for the attachment i.e. a receipt, save the attachment somewhere on your computer and delete the email.
2. Create folders/filters
After going through step one you will likely have a good idea of what type of emails remain. Create folders or filters (GMAIL) using a system that works best for your business. Some people prefer a setup similar to their file structure on their hard drive others find a different system works.
We all love filing, don’t we? Go through your inbox for a second time and file emails into their appropriate folder.
4. Set up rules
I find this step really beneficial. Setting up email rules will help keep your inbox clutter free. Rules will automatically sort certain emails and file them in the folders your select i.e. you can choose to have all reports to go into a report folder so you can find and read them when required.
5. Task list
After the above steps are complete the remaining emails in your inbox should only require action. From here you can create tasks for each one and set a timeline for completion.
During busy times I often find limiting the number of times I check emails throughout the day to be really helpful. Email can be a time sucker and you can get taken off task. Try to keep your email closed and only check them at scheduled times throughout the day i.e. 9am, 1pm and 3pm. This will give you enough time to tackle some of your to-do’s and still allow you time to see if anything urgent has popped up.
If implementing the above steps seems overwhelming, you can always hire a virtual assistant to help you get organized! These are professionals that often have tried and true systems to helping you work more efficiently.
Let me know if you have any proven strategies for freeing yourself from your email inbox.