One of the things in life that can cause some serious chaos is email. Am I right? These days it seems we’re bombarded with email after email until they pile up so high we decide to ignore them and hope it goes away. It doesn’t. That inbox will keep getting bigger and bigger. The Clean Body Project is about clearing out those things that no longer serve you, so you need to deal with the inbox – so do I.
One rebel way of doing this is what Chris Guillebeau (the author of the book The Art of Non-Conformity) suggests – delete them all and send a message to your contacts that you have deleted everything and if anything was super important, please resend.
I don’t go to those extremes – at least not yet. However, I do get so fed up with my inbox that I take action. The funny thing is, when I worked in my corporate job, my inbox was at or near zero at the end of each day. What happened when I left? I don’t know, but whatever drove me to keep a nice and tidy inbox at the j-o-b needs to show up pronto in this entrepreneurial world I now inhabit.
Here are a few tips for when that inbox gets a bit carried away.
When you’ve had enough of the inbox, set aside specific time to take care of matters. This means you turn off everything that has notifications, you put your butt in the chair, and you deal with the inbox. You may not be able to do the entire inbox in one sitting, so schedule a few sessions throughout the week to get it all finished.
Gmail has made it easier to handle your inbox by creating Gmail Offline. It’s an app that allows you to handle your email without being distracted by your Internet connection. You can learn more about it here.
Eliminate not communicate. What do I mean by this? Do not reply to any emails during this session. Not a single one. I know, easier said than done. When you come across an email that you actually need to do something with (reply, print, file, etc.), flag it and schedule time to handle those administrative tasks. Trust me on this – you can end up in a big black hole of email reply and you’ll still have a ton of emails left. Don’t do it.
When you first approach the inbox I would suggest you sort the emails by sender. One caveat – you cannot easily do this in Gmail. There are ways to do this with coding, but I won’t go there in this post. I use a mail client (Outlook) to manage my Gmail inboxes (yes, I have several that I explain later). This makes it incredibly easy for me to find what I’m looking for. When I sort by sender I can see who is emailing me, what they are emailing me, and delete it all at one time if needed.
The point of this entire post is to get you to eliminate emails from your inbox, not move them to a different folder. Good try though.
Next, consider creating a filing/folder system within the email client. I do not recommend that you file every email. The point of this entire post is to get you to eliminate emails from your inbox, not move them to a different folder. Good try though (haha).
Think through the types of emails that you receive and then categorize them into a handful of main folders. For instance, your main folders might be: to read, business, personal finances, family & friends, school, and shopping. Under each main folder, you can add subfolders. For personal finances you might have subfolders for taxes, receipts, and CPA.
Now, if all those folders make your head spin, create one folder that is called “Done.” This is where emails that you need to keep (and have taken all the necessary action) are moved to so that you can find them when needed. Over time this folder can get a bit large, so really think about this before going this route.
One system that I have is to have separate email accounts for specific things. I have employed this tactic for years now so that I can keep emails organized (to some extent). I have an email address for newsletters, one personal account, and two business accounts (one for each of my main projects). They are all fed into my Outlook mail client where they remain separate but I can easily find what I am looking for.
Rules rule – most email clients (including Gmail) will allow you to create rules for your incoming email – in some cases, they are now called filters. It would be impossible for me to provide instructions on how to do this for every client that exists. A simple search either in the email client help section or on Google should help you find how to do this. Click here to learn how to do some filtering in Gmail – enjoy!
Now, what are rules/filters? In a nutshell, they are little programs that tell your email client what to do when something happens. In simple terms, think of them as “if-then” scenarios. Here’s an example: If an email from Bobbie is received, then send it to the folder titled Follow-up. Just about all email clients have an automatic filter for emails that look suspicious – they automatically go to the spam or junk folder. You can create all sorts of personal filters so that your inbox stays relatively clean and organized.
Personally, I don’t use a lot of filtering or rules. I tend to over think it and it gets a bit crazy. I’m sure there are some great tutorials online that can help you with this.
One great application that you can try to reduce and streamline the flow of email into your inbox is Unroll.com. It automatically identifies junk mail. It shows them to you and you can decide on the spot if you want to unsubscribe. Easy peasy. In the app you identify those subscriptions that you want to keep. Once you do this, you will receive a daily digest of those emails (in one email) – no more 100s of emails daily for all the wonderful things you want to keep up on (or is that just me?).
Introducing Email App by Edison Mail. Now here’s an email app that can do everything for you – seriously, everything. And you can get it for either iPhone or Android. Can you say, yea baby? Haha – sorry, got a little carried away. I won’t list all the features because there are just too many, but it does what Enroll.me does and so much more. You will never need another email client again.
There are many more apps and programs you can get for email organization, so consider what it is that you think you might need and do some searching. Keep in mind what your goals are with email (you do have goals, right?) and find your solution.
Finally, I strongly suggest you create some healthy habits and rules around checking email. Some of us check email the moment we hear a notification, and others (raises hand) completely forget to check email for weeks on end.
When setting up habits think about when you will check it. How often? For how long? What will you do during your email check sessions (take action, add it to your to-do list, delete?)
With some thought and conscious decision-making, we can get control over our inbox. This is one area of my personal Clean Body Project that is a top priority for me this year.
How about you? How will you tame the email tiger this year? Share in the comments. I really want to know – do you have any secrets you can share with me?
Corrie Ann Gray is a writer, researcher, coach, and cookie enthusiast who lives in Los Angeles, CA. She started the Clean Body Project to share all of her knowledge and resources with others who are interested in running their own experiment into clean holistic living. She is also known as The Renaissance Soul Writer at www.corrieanngray.com.