4 Steps to a Decluttered Email Inbox

As more folks have gained access to, and embraced, technology, a new form of clutter has come into our lives – digital or virtual clutter.  

It isn’t exactly the same as the physical clutter present in our homes and offices, but it’s effects are very similar.

Digital clutter leads to decreased productivity, increasing feelings of frustration and overwhelm.  

Maybe the most common form of virtual clutter is the current state of our email inboxes!

Do you frequently overlook or miss important emails because your inbox is cluttered with a recipe of the day or a store sale ad from Target or Old Navy?  

Time to put a system in place so you can cut through the mess and get the information you need.  

Here are the 4 steps to get your inbox decluttered in no time at all:

Step 1: Stop the Influx 

The first step in gaining some control over your email inbox is to stem the tide of what’s coming in.

Now’s the time to unsubscribe from any and all newsletters and mailing lists that are no longer interesting or of use to you.  

Quick Win: Low Value Social Media Notification Emails

Is your inbox cluttered with a bunch of social media notification emails alerting you to being mentioned in a friend’s post?

These are pretty low value notifications and are really just ads for the platform, designed to pique your interest and curiosity.

Think about what you really want to be notified about.

What’s a good use of your time to get a nudge about?

Is an email necessary or could you use app badges instead?  

If you don’t want to opt out entirely, filter them into a dedicated folder where they will be contained.

What if you still want the information?  

If you’re not quite ready to let go of the subscription, consider having the information pulled to you on demand rather than having the information pushed to you via email.  

Think Pinterest, where you will see the same information when you scroll through the latest pins.  

Or Feedly, a site that brings all of your websites and blogs together in one place.  

That way you control when you get the information and it doesn’t clog up your inbox.  

Step 2: Work through the backlog 

Now that you’ve cut down on what is coming in, it’s time to work your way through your inbox and whittle it down.  

Your cluttered inbox represents a whole bunch of delayed decisions, so commit to taking a stand now and making a few decisions so you can cut your inbox down to size.  

Sort by date and get rid of anything that is outdated and old.  

Or sort by sender and save anything of interest and see if there is anything to act upon now.  

Delete anything else.

This is a task that best done 15 minutes or so at a time, so set some time aside each day.

Breaking up the task into smaller chunks makes it seem less monotonous and it won’t just turn into yet another thing to do “some day.”

How to Quickly Find and Delete Emails You Don’t Want

Google has some easy to follow instructions for creating a filter for your emails.

Step 3: Sort and File 

Use filters and folders to sort the emails you can’t delete just yet, and also to set yourself up for success going forward.  

Use the filter options to divert emails from your inbox and into various categories that fit the types of emails you receive.  

Consider creating a “Waiting” folder so you can keep track of things you need a response from someone else.  

This keeps your inbox free of that type of clutter.

Step 4: Pledge to change 

In order to keep your email free and clear of clutter, you’ll need to do some maintenance going forward.  

Change the bad habit of simply scrolling through new emails and commit to making a decision about each new email that comes in.  

Otherwise, your inbox will revert back into an overwhelming pit!  

Old bad habit: scroll through and cherry pick what you actually read or act upon.  

New rule: act upon each email and don’t check your email unless you are going to do something with it!

Follow these steps and your email inbox should be decluttered and clear in no time!

Need more help?

If your digital life is a hot mess and you need some guidance to see you through, then take a look at the Computer Organizing Course I’ve designed.

It’s a step by step approach that breaks down the entire process into simple tasks anyone can do to clean up their digital life!

Even More on Solving Digital Clutter

Use your smartphone! 5 Apps to help you get organized

Drowning in digital pictures? Check out my advice for Decluttering digital photos here.

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