5 Ways to organise your email

Confession time. My inbox at the moment is a mess. In fact, when a friend saw that I had 7664 unread emails in my inboxes (across four different email accounts), she let out a loud gasp. It’s not quite as bad as it seems, as many of them are press releases and general sale emails that I automatically divert to other sub-folders and dip in an out of. But it’s hardly what I’d call productive either.

So, I’ve come up with a five step strategy to get my email healthy again. I’m not talking inbox zero healthy (I’m realistic, that’s never going to happen for me), but 80% organised would be marvellous.

  1. Update my sub-folder rules – This one is going to be a half day job. Currently, I have a group of rules that automatically sort some of my emails. LinkedIn emails into one folder, any emails containing the term ‘sale’ in the subject into another folder and so on. The trouble is, it’s often a case of out of sight, out of mind. So I need to go through those folders, and assess which emails I need to remain subscribed to. Which brings me on to…
  2. Unsubscribe – I’m aiming for five unsubscribes a day. Should only take me a couple of minutes each day, so totally doable.
  3. Unroll – Unroll.me is a tool where you can collate all your emails into one long email you receive each morning. You can also unsubscribe to regular newsletters from the site, so it’s a big time saver. Having everything in one email often reminds you how little some emails contribute to your life – and how little you’ll miss them if you unsubscribe. This will probably take 1-2 hours to fully complete.
  4. Use Gmail? Ok, take a deep breath, hover over ‘Inbox’ on the left, and choose ‘Unread first’. This scared the sh*t out of me. And I also discovered a few important emails that I’d completely missed beforehand. All those tabs for social/discussion etc might be handy, but they also lead to you missing out on a lot of good stuff. If you get a lot of emails, ‘Unread first’ will do you more favours in the long run. This…this is a day long job.
  5. Once your email is in a little better shape, try to keep it that way. My aim is to stick with the rule of ‘delete or deal with it’. I have a tendency to check my emails on the go, forget about them and then forget to reply later. So the only way I can see myself dealing with this, is if I limit how often I check it. My first step to doing this, is to take my mail app on my phone, and hide it away in the back of a sub-folder. Hopefully that will stop me checking it so much on impulse!

One last thing. Last weekend, I removed my mail app from the bottom toolbar on my iPhone, and hid it away in a folder on the third page. This has really helped me reduce how often I check my email by impulse.

Ideally, I want to have all of this done by the end of February.

Are you an organised emailer? Or a recovering disorganised one? What are your top email tips? Let me know in the comments!

5 Comments on Five ways to organise your email

  1. I use GMail filters, labels, and quick-links, plus the fact that I have my own multiple domains and can make catchall forwarders on them. So that I won’t get spammed, I’ll use work.com and play.com in these examples.

    When I sign up for a list, a contest (which usually gets me added to a list), correspondence with a new person, or whatever, I give them a unique address at one of my domains. So if I’m signing up for, say, the Mid-Atlantic Ruby Society email list, I’d give them something like dave+mars.list@work.com. If signing up for the Fairfax cat-fanciers club, it would be something like dave+fairfax.cat.fanciers.list@play.com. For you, it would be something like dave+emma.cossey@work.com (since we’d likely be talking about freelancing stuff). For my cousin Joe Shmoe, it would be something like dave+joe.shmoe@play.com (since we’d likely *not* be talking about work stuff). If I didn’t have multiple domains, I could fake it by adding the word “work” onto work-related emails and looking for the presence or absence of that, or possibly using “david” instead of “dave”. Thanks to the catchalls, they ALL get routed to my GMail account anyway.

    Now let’s look at what happens when an email arrives at my GMail account. First, anything to work.com gets the label “work”. This lets me ignore non-work stuff during work hours. Next, anything to an address that has “list” in it, gets the label “list”. This lets me get quickly to anything that’s directly to me. I have GMail quick-links set up for each of these four combos.

  2. My partner had over 70 000 unread emails when I went in there to find some of his expenses last year. I made A Big Fuss as it made my life hell. This year it’s better at only 30 000 unread emails or so. You feel better now? 🙂

    I got a new phone over Christmas and one that could deal with email. It’s so easy to carry over bad habits so I have been strict with myself about checking, as it’s hard to stop the compulsion but harder to get rid of it later. Email, FB, Instagram and Bloglovin’ I’m working on only checking once a day. Really, I need to be only checking email when I am deliberately staying away from the laptop (to stop other bad habits!) and out and about for the whole day, and then only once.

    What I have started doing is looking to see if an enquiry or other important email has come in, and if there isn’t anything, I open nothing else. If it’s an important email, it gets a quick reply to say I will reply later, and the few that applies to I can remember.

  3. I’m also guilty of checking emails on the go and then either forgetting to reply or letting the junk ones build up. So I like your tip about hiding that email app away in a sub folder, I think I shall try that one!

  4. I’m a relatively organised inbox owner but I do check my emails far too frequently. I started unsubscribing from irrelevant newsletters recently which has brought to the fore some really brilliant ones, so that was a good thing.

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