According to internet memes there are two kinds of people in this world: those who keep their inbox at zero, and those who don't.
If you happen to fall in the latter camp of "I'll get to this later" but never do, your email inbox probably feels like an exponential problem — the number rising every day a massive source of anxiety. But thank goodness it's spring, a season for showers, flowers, and cleaning. A season that, without which we might not ever get anything clean.
If your inbox needs a major overhaul here are four steps to slaying this spring cleaning and preventing yesterday's emails from becoming tomorrow's to-do list.
You need to set aside some time to do this. No one said spring cleaning was easy, but write down the most important categories. For example:
ACCOUNTS>IMPT TO DO*>BOSS**>COMPLETED PROJECTS>FREELANCERS>SYNDICATION PARTNERS>HOLDING***
People tend to overcomplicate their filing system, and they never end up using it. Try to keep the number of folders you create to under 10. That search bar in your email? It's actually incredibly efficient and more advanced than ever before. It does the work of all those sub-categories you're unnecessarily creating.
* By creating a folder like "Impt. To-Do" you can stop using your inbox as a to-do list. You know what we mean — those emails you send yourself with tasks that need to be completed. Use a different program for this, and create a folder to help you manage projects.
** By creating a folder like "Boss," you can easily search your boss’s name and drop all emails in this folder.
*** By creating a folder like "Holding" you can drop cold pitches and emails that you're interested in responding to, but don't have the time to do so in the moment. But then when you do have the time, it's easy to find. You waste so much time searching for that one email, where you can't quite remember the idea, the name, the company... create this folder and start dropping those stray emails in.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO TAKE ACTION
We tend to think of online space as unlimited, and as such, we never delete anything. But there is no reason why you have to keep every email you receive.
If it's just taking up space, donate it to the delete button.
DEVELOP A SYSTEM
Once you get it cleaned out, the most important task at hand is developing a system you can stick to — that way you don't find yourself in the same mess all over again. Jaclyn Johnson, Founder of Create & Cultivate likes her inbox at zero when her head hits the pillow — so she developed this attack plan:
"I get anywhere between 900-1200 emails per day, 1/4 of which I can delete. The rest I put through a tried-and-true system, where I sort my inbox based on a few different categories. Namely: urgent, where I respond right away; non-urgent, which I typically forward to someone else to answer; important and in need of a thoughtful response, which I mark as unread; and inquiry, which could be new business, press, or general questions which I drop and drag into a marked folder. Twice a day (noon and 4pm) I will answer the thoughtful emails, taking time to craft a response. At the end of the day, I will go to the marked folder and answer the less urgent emails. While I strive for a zero unread inbox, it’s unrealistic. The important part is prioritizing and organizing as to not let anything slip through the cracks."
You know what system will work for you. (Email hack: Use the color-coded flags, they are so unbelievably useful.) The best thing you can do is create it and follow through.
FOR FUTURE ISSUES: CREATE A SPAM EMAIL
We give out our email to a lot of sites. From Netflix to Staples, to sites we can't even remember signing up for. Create a second gmail account where you send all product offers, spam — anything that you know you won’t need to check on a daily basis. If you ever feel like you need 40% off at the GAP, head to your spam email and you'll be sure to find a code. Otherwise, that bulk of AM emails from companies you have no desire to hear from is clogging up your inbox, space in your brain, and might even be causing a few too many unnecessary purchases. This is one tip that will save you time, space, and money.