In today's electronic age, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with all the email coming to our inbox. In my 15 years of using email, I have found and applied five ways to de-clutter my inbox and finally take control of the volume of email.
- Unsubscribe from worthless newsletters - If you have been signing up for newsletters, updates, etc., you will easily find yourself being overwhelmed by the volume of email, most of which don't provide any real value. If you have this problem, you may need to actually take a look at your subscriptions and determine which are worth keeping. Lists that remain unread for at least three months should go.
- Run/Use rules - There is a feature in MS Outlook that automatically processes incoming mail based on user pre-defined rules. I use this feature to file system-generated notifications into a separate folder. I also use the another feature the changes the color of emails depending on who is sending it. I generally use the colors of the rainbow to assign priority, red being the highest and violet being the lowest. Some newsletters, specifically those that cannot be unsubscribe to, are immediately transferred to trash. Another useful rule is to check email three times a day at most.
- Improve reply habits - Refrain from replying to all recipients. The more email you send out, the more email coming in. Also avoid sending short replies such as, ok, thanks, LOL, etc. You also don't need to reply immediately. Some email software allows you to set the time at which email is sent out.
- Ask questions effectively - Make sure you have covered everything to ensure just one response. As an example, when you need to set up an appointment, do not ask, "Are you free tomorrow morning?". Rather, ask "Are you free tomorrow morning? If yes, please expect me to drop by at 10am. If not, can you please let me know your available time in the afternoon? Or your earliest available time?"
- Go talk to the other person - If the intended recipient is just a walk away, why don't you drop by personally or call? It will save you a lot of time and minimizes misunderstandings.
Using the above tips, I was able to lower the volume of incoming mail by more than 80%! I hope that following the above tips could also help you gain control of your inbox.