If you've just looked at your email inbox, it's likely that you have dozens, hundreds, or, in the worst case scenario, thousands of emails to contend with. Maybe some of them are unread, maybe others are read. No matter where your inbox stands, there's a way to unclutter all of that information. Though it doesn't happen overnight, incremental steps can help you figure out the mess your inbox might be. The following tips are mostly applicable to all email clients, though some are Gmail specific.
Start by removing the unnecessary messages from your inbox.
If you're anything like us, it's likely that you use email to receive promotional emails from businesses, whether it's for discounts and deals or product updates. However, how many of you also forget to delete these emails in your inbox? It's likely that over the years you've accumulated hundreds or thousands of emails. Try searching by specific terms (as an example, "LivingSocial") and see how many emails pop up. By searching by specific terms, you're able to delete emails in bulk, saving you valuable time.
Consider email labels and special folders to archive existing messages.
Often times individuals get multiple email accounts forwarded to a primary email account. However, many forget to label incoming messages and archive emails to the correct folders. Without search terms, you have to plug keywords into the search bar, hoping you don't have to sift through hundreds of messages. By using labels and folders you'll able to find specific information much more efficiently. With particularly valuable emails, this makes more sense, not only saving you time but helping ensure the messages might not get lost among less important ones.
Give yourself an hour every week to assess the state of your inbox.
Be proactive with your inbox. Rather than waiting until spring to clean out your inbox, give yourself 30 minutes or an hour every week to assess the state of your inbox. Do you notice important unread messages? Are there emails that can be deleted? Have you not heard from someone you had expected to? By taking time to look at your inbox, you keep it both more organized and ensure you're not missing out on any important conversation.
Consider investing in mobile apps can let you focus your attention elsewhere.
While it's great to have an organized inbox on your desktop, don't forget the potential of mobile apps to help you organize your inbox. One of our current favorites is Mailbox. Though it is available only for those with iPhones, you're able to use any Gmail account, including Google business accounts. What is particularly useful about this is the ability to archive messages and receive notifications for them at a later date. For instance, say you just bought tickets for a concert in three months but don't want to print them out now. You're able to select any date and time in the future to have that message return to your inbox.
By not having those emails in your inbox or having to worry about plugging in a unique calendar notification, you reduce clutter and let yourself focus on those more pressing messages in your inbox.
Finally, give yourself a break from your inbox, at least for a part of every day.
Do you ever find yourself checking your inbox right when you wake up or right before bed? We'd recommend against it. By feeling like you're constantly "on the clock" to answer emails, you never get distance between your personal life and your technology. It always feels like some communication is lingering over you, part of a constant to-do list. Not only can you get burnt out from email communication, but you're also likely not to feel like you want to keep up on your inbox organization.
Though these are just some possible tips, we're confident they can help get you one step closer to inbox zero. Though it might seem daunting at first, by taking incremental steps anyone can reach a state of email zen. My personal method is to couple David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology with Evernote, learn more about how I maximize my productivity at 247inktoner.com. Feel free to share your favorite tips for keeping your inbox organized below!