The ducluttering series continue with how to organize email. Here is why. Email remains the number one method for communication in business and schools, and in close competition with texting in private life. By learning to process and organize the inflow of your messages, you will maintain the upper hand on your electronic correspondence and become an email ninja!
The same principles that apply to decluttering your home or office, are used to declutter your communication overload. Today you have many choices when selecting your email provider. Some are free, while others may be a part of an Internet packages such as from Comcast or SBC Global.
I personally use and recommend Gmail. It’s a free service from Google. In my experience, Gmail by far outperforms its competitors. Its intuitive, crisp interface alone with feature rich functions makes it a clear leader. However, you don’t have to use Gmail, as the decluttering principals outlined here are universal to all email services.
If you are like me, you may find yourself juggling multiple email accounts. You may have your primary email account that you use on daily basis. In addition, you may have a number of accounts associated with various websites that you own. The list can go on and on. It’s a good idea to consolidate all of your email accounts into just one.
Instead of switching between different accounts, I advise that you forward them all into one, account. You do this by using the “email forwarding” feature of the different email services. Forward the emails to your primary account where you will receive and process all of your incoming mail.
Your Inbox represents the focal point for your communication. Similar to the inbox for incoming information at home and office, your goal is to collect the information into a single box and process it until it’s empty. You will appreciate the look and feel of a completely empty inbox. Here is how:
Minimize the incoming mail. I find that over time, I get signed up for many different mailing lists. These are news and blog feeds, promotional correspondence, horoscope, etc. Many of these lists send me messages that just end up cluttering up my inbox and my attention. It’s highly advisable to look through these subscriptions and determine which ones should be eliminated.
You will find that you can easily remove yourself from many mailing lists, thus freeing up lots of inbox real estate. If some of the senders are persistent, you can simply designate them as spam. This is done quiet easily in Gmail. The goal is to leave only the very essential communication coming in.
Each time you receive a new email message, determine if you really want to maintain contact with the sender. If not, don’t be afraid to cut the ties! You will trim down the unnecessary emails, thus allowing yourself to focus on only the messages that have real value to you.
As you sort through your incoming email, start prioritizing the messages in the order of their importance to you. In Gmail, you can assign tags and categories to the messages in order to keep them organized.
In addition, you can create custom filters that will automatically file the messages into a particular category, or even discard them on your behalf. All of these tools are there to assist you with keeping your inbox empty of clutter.
Set the time of day when you will check your email. Check it only once or twice each day. Don’t fall in the trap of checking the email constantly. Turn off the mobile email notification on your smartphone. Don’t allow the email to dictate your day. Otherwise, you can end up reacting to the emails instead of executing the most important tasks of the day.
Take a proactive approach to your email organization. Filter it, sort it and don’t be afraid to delete it. It will sit in the deleted file for at least 30 days! Customize this advice to the unique way that you get things done. Allow yourself the flexibility to create new folders and files to keep on top of your communication.
Having a declutteredinbox and an organized email will free up time for your other important activities and assignments. The goal is simple – do away with the unnecessary and process the essential. Apply minimalist strategies to your home, office and communication. Enjoy less clutter, more productivity or just some free time!
Live well. Vlad