Many of us feel swamped by the seeming barrage of unnecessary email. I’ve observed the frustration of friends and family members who are getting hundreds – if not thousands – of automated email notifications on daily basis. This “junk mail” is clogging up our praised inboxes, creating unbearable noise that prevents us from actually seeing our work, let alone doing it. Deleting unnecessary emails feels good. The process, which shouldn’t take much of your time, will empower you to feel in control over your incoming email. It’s time to develop an increased awareness of what comes into our inboxes – and to take proactive steps to keep the clutter at bay. Here at Centask, we are extremely diligent about keeping our inbox clutter to what we consider a tolerable level: 0.0001%. This parameter empowers us to make email work for us. Accomplishing this goal is not only a result of dedication, but also a consequence of various email tricks we picked up along the way that allowed us to weed out the junk from valuable emails worthy of our attention. Here is a glimpse into our “bag of tricks”:
Alias Email Addresses
Being aware of the way email is distributed, I’ve always been a big proponent of having a couple of different email addresses that I could share indiscriminately, not being too preoccupied with what is going to end up in various inboxes. But over time, I’ve found myself occasionally tempted to log into that other email to check on one thing or another. Naturally, I would have the relocate the password I’ve used for that other account, just in order to open that inbox. I am fully aware that not everybody adopted a habit pattern of using more than one email address, but giving out a single main address to everybody is a card blanche to automated email overload. I am not suggesting you to open up an entirely new email account, but instead, you should explore the alias options that your email client offers to you. Gmail and iCloud both have great alias options available at your disposal, so use them indiscriminately.
In order for alias to save you from inbox clutter, you need to couple it with appropriate filters that will divert your junk mail from your inbox into the appropriate folders and labels. For example: my icloud email has 3 aliases. The main alias is my regular inbox, the second one is for junk, and the third one is for important email. My main email address receives unfiltered mail. The second (first alias) email address bypasses my inbox, and sends messages directly into a folder I named “Newsletters,” where I can access them later. My third (second alias) address, which receives messages I’ve deemed to be very important, helps me prioritize my email activity.
On his blog, Michael Hyatt refers to the concept of “email bankruptcy.” Some of his readers have been complaining: “I really want to catch-up on email, but I have over twenty-one hundred unread messages in my inbox. Every time I think about trying to catch up, I want to cry. I don’t know where to begin!” His advice to that reader was as follows: Declare email bankruptcy and start over. It’s not worth staying stuck in this state. It’s time for something radical. Simply reducing the amount of incoming messages won’t solve the problem of the garbage that has piled up and accumulated over the months or years of neglect. When you have more than 1,000 unread emails, where your important emails aren’t separated from the clutter, it is pretty unrealistic to expect that you can go through your entire inbox in an hour, or even in a whole day. Email bankruptcy is a concept where you decide that you don’t have the time nor energy to deal with all the emails that came your way, and you decide it’s time for a fresh start. Usually Email Bankruptcy looks something like this:
- You inform the most important people from your contact list (like your boss, significant other and close friends) that you officially entered “email bankruptcy,” and that you won’t be able to address their previous demands communicated through email. If you didn’t respond to some of their previous important emails, you politely ask them to resend it to you, as they won’t be addressed anymore.
- You create a folder or label called “My Old Inbox” (R.I.P.) and you move the entire contents of your inbox into it.
- Start fresh!
Email bankruptcy won’t work unless you address the issues that resulted in your cluttered inbox in the first place.. So before you even start thinking about declaring email bankruptcy, try to slash your automated inbox at least by 90%. You won’t be able to find ALL of the automated messages that are coming your way. However, when the few that you’ve missed still manage to find their way to your inbox, you will be able to tackle them, without accruing another unwieldy, cluttered inbox.
How to Make Email Work for You Again
If you’ve followed the steps so far, you are receiving 90% fewer automated emails coming your way and you’ve released yourself from the burden of the past. Now that you’ve created a clean and fresh start,, you have a responsibility to yourself to keep it organized. It’s time to “Make Email Work”. When you have a reasonable and manageable inbox, you can start thinking of more advanced ways to take full control over your email.