We’ve all had that inbox. The one that hosts thousands of unread messages. It likely has a full box of spam – it might even be full itself. (Yes, you actually can max out storage space, which then sends new messages in the opposite direction.) Rather than taking the time to delete what was unnecessary each day, you let it all pile up, and now it’s basically too overwhelming to start. I want to panic just thinking about it.
But there’s an easy fix to this email mess. Rather than putting off everything, you can help combat your maxed out mail, and allow you for timely correspondence.
Clean Out the Unreads
First things first: it’s high-time to get that number of unread messages as low as possible, which is zero. If messages are months old, just delete them and start fresh. Get a whole new email and forward new messages so old ones can be forgotten once and for all. Whatever your method of choice, it’s time to start with a fresh slate. Having that number of messages that needs to be checked will only cause stress every time you log in.
Set Aside Email Time
It’s true that this is about as unglamorous as it gets – responding to questions and setting appointments – but it’s also a necessary aspect of today’s technologies. It’s likely that you’re spending less time on the phone, and mail is strictly for bills and magazines, so really we’re saving time by emailing. And it’s allowing for more correspondence to be done in a shorter amount of time. But, by responding to emails at a single time vs. as they come in, you’ll be streamlining your time. It might feel weird to not check your email every five minutes, but it’s a habit worth getting used to.
Answer Them All
Right then and there. Whenever email time is (which, depending on your job and its level of urgency, should be once-twice a day). Open all your new messages and then respond as necessary. Reading an email, marking it as unread, and then deciding to deal with it at a later date will only cause more time spent, and really the only thing gained is the ability to put something off. Unless you truly need more time to gather information, consider it urgent.
Utilize Flags and Delete Options (Heavily)
You don’t have to respond to every email you get, in fact, that’s not even expected. Only keep what’s important and needs your attention, then delete the rest. (Ads, newsletters, and straight spam can all be nixed.) You can also flag or highlight what’s important in order to keep it handy later on. Let the trash button become your new best friend.
Don’t Let it Get Out of Control
There’s nothing wrong with taking a short break from email, but when you let things pile up for too long, that’s when it becomes overwhelming. Leaving you right back where you started. Even when you take a vacation, get right back on the inbox task as soon as you return. It’s the only way to keep your correspondence tidy, and to keep all your important information in one, easy-to-find place.