Year of Happy: Clearing Out the Inbox

It’s such a big issue that there is a whole week dedicated to it this week: Cleaning Out Your Inbox.

Whether it be work or personal email, there’s nothing like having only a few select emails to face on a daily basis. Instead, we are faced with far too many to deal with and we find ourselves with a ton to sort through.

In honour of this week, I’m going to be tackling my inboxes so that I can have a bit of that “outer order inner calm” feeling. Read on to find out how and for tips on managing work emails.


Personal Email

Currently I have four separate email inboxes:

  • Gmail that I picked up when I started using android;
  • Outlook that I have had since needing email outside of work became a thing;
  • Outlook so you can contact me direct;
  • A third Outlook account that I have recently set up for secure communications (more about that later);

The first two accounts are particularly problematic. As I read most of my email on my phone, the actual deleting of emails doesn’t happen so there is a fair bit of junk sitting there. Plus, we seem to need to have an email address to read anything on the internet these days as we are asked to set up an account.

Here’s my plan of action:

1. Actually log in to the account on a pc.

2. Sort by who sent.

This seems to be the easiest way I have found to get rid of emails in big chunks. Some of these marketing teams are good though – they get your address and send from several different accounts. Using the sweep function can get rid of similar emails with the same name.

3. Delete out of date emails.

There will always be a few emails kept for a good reason, such as information on up coming trips. If the date has passed then these can go.

4. Unsubscribe as I go.

You know how it goes; you want to enter a competition and for evermore they send you newsletters and promotions. If they are no longer of interest, they’re going.

5. Organise remaining items.

Maybe just one folder – the archive perhaps – but out of the main inbox so that the only emails in the inbox are those that need some action taking.

6. Keep on top of it.

Inbox zero has to be the way to go, weekly or monthly as a minimum.

7. Reduce unwanted spam

So we all get spam and partly that’s through these competitions we sign up for and most of it is harmless. But then there are the other types. Those asking for money, those telling you your PayPal account is being abused, those that invite you to spend time with buxom ladies. We don’t want them and usually it’s because somewhere there has been a security breach and your details have been sold. Hence my new account. Time to make my bank communications more secure and start transfering other important mail over.

Want to know if your email account isn’t as secure as you’d like? Check out this website:

Work Email

I have less of a problem with my work email. Partly because I changed jobs – immediate inbox zero – but it’s not just that. Work email is different because it has specific themes and links to other emails as people are involved in exchanges of thoughts back and forward. It took me a while to get into the groove of inbox zero but I got there eventually through these methods of organisation below. See what you think.

1. Set aside time everyday for sorting through new mail.

I usually allocate time first thing, last thing and a couple of times in the day, say either side of lunch.

2. Sort by date grouped by conversation.

I don’t want to be dramatic but ticking to group by conversation has outright revolutionised the way I look at my email. No more searching to see whether I responded or not or whether a related email sits in another folder because all related emails are grouped in that conversation even if in another folder. What’s more, it tells you which folder.

You can then decide to delete previous emails in the conversation manually or use the conversation clean up tool for that folder. I really hope they don’t get rid of these great functions.

3. Assign a category

When I first read an email, I assign a category, let’s say Project X. If the email also contains information about Project Y, then it will get that category too. This helps in two ways: if I can’t remember who sent it I at least have an inkling as to how to find it and I can quickly pull up all emails that discuss the same topic.

Added bonus: if the email is a follow up to a previous conversation it will already have a category assigned when it comes in.

4. Determine if it needs following up.

If I want to come back to a particular email at a later date or want to chase a response next week, month, etc, then the email will get a flag with a date for action. Then it will appear on the task list and I can check that daily and take appropriate action. These inbox developers didn’t miss a trick, did they?

5. Move out of the inbox.

Now some people like to have separate folders but I just stick everything in one folder called ‘Sorted’. That way I can sort by category, date, person who sent, whatever. No trawling through different folders wondering where I might have saved it (and anyway, I’ve already categorised it)

The only exceptions are emails I need to action today or tomorrow, or that I need to use for a project I am working on.

That’s the way I stay inbox happy at work and maybe I need to use some of my own tips on the personal emails.

Has your inbox been overflowing? Will you be joining in with cleaning out your inbox? Have you got any tips to share on managing your emails?
Share in the comments below.

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Until next time, remember, if the excess baggage is weighing you down, you can always leave it in lost luggage.

Until next time, be happy,

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