Email is like laundry—if you don’t keep up with it, it turns into a mountain. Periodically, I clean/purge my inbox. After I do that, I always promise myself I’ll keep it clean. But invariably, a big project comes along that produces a flood of emails, life intervenes, and before I know it a half dozen emails become dozens, then hundreds.
I hit the brakes when it gets to the hundreds. On a day when my head isn’t into writing, and I clean out my inbox. I did this the other day and posted my victory on Facebook. Another author replied that she had a backlog of thousands. I cannot imagine.
For what it’s worth, I thought I’d share my tips for email inbox cleaning.
First, there two practices I follow all the time that make inbox cleaning easier.
- When I get an email, if I need to act on it, refer to it later, or keep it for a long time I star (flag) it immediately. So when I’m purging, I can see at a glance what’s really important.
- I create folders and subfolders for various books and projects for filing emails.
I try to use the inbox for important matters I’m likely to forget about if they weren’t right in front of me. It’s like using my do list v. posting a note on the refrigerator door. For most things, my to-do list suffices, but for things I need to deal with soon that I absolutely do not want to forget, I put a note on fridge. My inbox is like the fridge.
Strategy: a wholesale reduction of quantity so whittling content is manageable.
- Without reading, I delete automated emails such as old newsletters (unless they’ve been starred!); FB, Twitter, Pinterest notifications, group notifications, new book announcement, etc.
- Then I sort the list from oldest to newest and delete as many old ones without reading as I can. If an email is three months old and I haven’t looked at it since, chances are I don’t need it.
Emails are like clothes. Organizers say if you haven’t worn something in year, you’re not going to, so get rid of it. If I saved an interesting article to read later, but I haven’t after three months, chances are I’m not going to. Delete!
- I re-sort the list from newest to oldest, and without opening, I file as many as I can into my separate folders. (I’m more likely to remember what’s in the new ones!).
- I save/file only the latest thread of group or back-and-forth emails that I want to keep.
- Then, I open what’s left, do a quick scan, and either delete or file them.
I use Yahoo email. Yahoo has feature where you can “archive” an email. One click puts it into an archive folder. It functions like a junk drawer. It’s a great feature, but I use it sparingly. I don’t want to create a folder for every possible email subject or project, but I want to avoid having hundreds (or thousands!) of emails archived.