A recent article in the New York Times suggests a few different ways to manage your ever-growing email inbox. The recommendations begin with “Stop Organizing, Start Searching.” Many people are not aware that searching capabilities, much like Google or Yahoo, are available within your email. Most email programs allow you to search for names, subject lines or words in the body of the email. While organizing your emails can be effective, even the most organized person can file an email in the wrong place. While your searching for lost email, you can also build a virtual address book. Are you still a card-carrying member of the Rolodex club? Toss it. Signature lines in emails are an easier way to keep your address book up-to-date. Keep a folder with all your contacts and you’ll be able to locate them with just one-click.
Blocking someone does not make you a bad person. In fact, the article suggests you “Be Ruthless About Blocking.” Instead of weeding through useless emails every morning, block the people that are sending you messages that are irrelevant to your needs. The “unsubscribe” button can also be your best friend. If you read an informative e-newsletter every month, keep it. If Facebook is sending you an email about every “like,” post and status update, change your settings.
While the article provides many great recommendations, here are a few suggestions that we’ve added to the list:
Wave the White Flag: Color-coded email flags can be useful when navigating the winding roads of your email inbox. But when your inbox starts to look like a giant rainbow, colored flags become more of a headache then a help. Start with a clean slate and wipe out all of your flags. Pick one or two colors that you can use to prioritize the urgency of your email and try only flagging your immediate “to-do” list for that day. Your inbox can be a really great resource for keeping up on your to-do list. The NYT article suggests trying a system such as Nudgemail, Followup or Boomerang. These types of programs will allow you to attach reminders to specific emails. You can even file away your email (to get it out of sight!) and these programs will prompt you to follow-up with them on your own schedule.
Image found via (Inspiration Bubble blog)
Dig up your Subfolders: Some people may disagree but being overly organized can actually cause more work in the long run. If each one of your folders had 10 or more subfolders, it could take you longer to find an email then to actually send one. While subfolders are a useful for organizing, try to limit folders to a manageable number. Still hanging on to that 2006 project folder that just maybe you’ll use one day? If you haven’t opened it in a few years, chances are, you won’t need it.
Don’t be afraid to DELETE: But I what if I NEED that project folder from 2006!? If you’re still having trouble letting go, save your files onto a CD and stash it in a filing cabinet. Then do the unthinkable…delete the folder. While you’re in the purging mood, take a look at the emails you’re saving. Do you really need all of them? Think realistically about why you’re saving each email. If you’re saving part 2 of a 6-part email conversation, do you really need to keep it? Scroll down though your last email correspondence. Most likely, your entire conversation, including the date, time, and correspondence history, is available in that one email. So why save all the old duplicate emails and clutter your inbox?
Make Peace/Take it One Email at a Time:
The NYT article made a valid point with its “Make Peace” motto and we definitely agree. No system is perfect and you’re inbox will always be growing. Just breathe and take it one email at a time. Try to avoid starting and stopping multiple email drafts. If you start writing an email, stick with it. Hitting the send button can be an extremely gratifying feeling.
Are you the Ruler of your unruly inbox? If you have any additional suggestions on how you manage your email kingdom, we want to know.