Fight Email Clutter with This Strategy and a Few Tools
Anyone who was around before the wide adoption of email can attest to the fact that it’s a powerful tool that has done wonders to speed up communication and administrative tasks. While email has made our lives more convenient in many ways, managing it has become increasingly time consuming with a large volume of our communication both personally and professionally going through email. Not to mention that most of us aren’t strangers to marketing emails, email scams, and other inbox clutter. So how do you keep with all of this efficiently? Here is a strategy and a few tools I’ve found useful in the fight against email clutter.
Inbox zero is an effective strategy if you find that a cluttered inbox slows you down or gives you anxiety. The concept here is simple: keep your inbox as close to empty as possible. This might seem like a daunting task but with a little organization and the following steps, you can get there.
For starters, you need to create an email folder structure where you can file emails that have been dealt with. Your folder structure will be unique to you and your workflow. Once you’ve established an effective folder structure, maintaining inbox zero is simple. All you need to do is file or delete emails that have been dealt with or do not require any action and leave those that still need your attention in your inbox. This strategy will keep your inbox clear, make old emails easier to locate, and help you power through tasks that are still outstanding because they’ll be front and center.
Understand Your Email Client
Thanks to advances in algorithms and Artificial Intelligence tools, your email client is likely much smarter than you give it credit for. For example, Gmail has been able to separate primary, social, and promotional emails for some time. Microsoft Outlook not only separates out junk mail but also puts low priority emails—ones that you tend not to reply to—in a clutter folder. To take full advantage of these types of features, it’s important to understand how they work. For this reason, I encourage everyone to take the time to learn about their email client.
Newsletters and marketing emails are unavoidable in the digital age and while some of them are interesting and useful, they’ll also clutter up your inbox fast! To keep the clutter at bay, I recommend being ruthless about unsubscribing to these emails. Unless you’re getting something out of the majority of the communications your receive from a particular sender, you should unsubscribe.
If you really have your heart set on receiving all of these emails, another way to keep them out of your main inbox is to create an additional email address just for newsletters and marketing emails. Of course, for this to be effective you’ll need to remember to give your dummy address to retailers and websites.
Unsubscribing and sending newsletters and marketing emails to an alternate email address will make a huge difference in keeping your inbox clear but what about the ones you’re still interested in receiving? For these, I recommend using Unroll.me. This service combines all of these emails into one daily rollup that you can quickly scan to see if there’s anything of interest that you’d like to look at further.
Scams are another inevitable pitfall of email that everyone with an email address has experienced. Of course, it’s easy to delete these and forget about them but if you want to have a bit of fun with the scammers, there’s a new chatbot that will string them along for while. This fun new tool, called Re:scam, will use a proxy email address to reply to the scammers, doing its best to waste their time. After all, what goes around comes around.
Use Alternate Modes of Communication
Once you’ve implemented all of the strategies and tools above, there’s one last thing you can do to keep your inbox clutter-free: use alternate modes of communication. At my company, we were all struggling to keep up with internal emails. We would often transmit one-line communications simply because verbal communication can fall through the cracks in a busy environment. That being said, these emails weren’t adding value in any meaningful way and just added to the clutter in our inboxes. About a year ago, we moved our internal communication to Slack, a messaging service for teams and companies. Slack is searchable and allows us to dedicate channels to specific topics. It’s an easy and effective mode of communication and it’s not the only one; others like it are available from a variety of software developers.
Using these tools and the Inbox Zero strategy, you should be able to tame that inbox clutter in no time. Do you have any other tools to combat email clutter?