As most of us have shifted to remote working setups, plus those who have joined the gig economy as home-based freelancers, emails have found a resurgence as a medium for correspondence. From online shopping updates to work notifications, the email inbox is probably more important now than before.
However, with the number of correspondences we have, your email inbox can easily transform from an update platform to your own logistical nightmare. To help you keep your hundreds, even thousands, of emails in an orderly fashion, here are six smart habits to help you manage your email inbox for good:
1. Set inbox filters
This is an underrated feature among most email service providers. Filters or inbox rules automatically filter and sort incoming email without you having to go through each of them. Take note that for most services, like Outlook or Gmail, filters only work on incoming messages after the filters have been set. Also, when someone replies to an older email that precedes a filter, the replies are now subject to the filter.
2. Delete emails that do not require user action
While keeping your inbox clean with zero content is far from possible, not to mention not recommended, you can minimize the volume of messages in your inbox. If a piece of correspondence doesn’t require an action from your end, like a reply, you can delete it right away. Work reminders past their due date or online shopping and social media notifications can go to the trash after you’ve read them. This lets you see incoming messages immediately and makes it easier for you to sift through your inbox should you need something.
This even applies to work emails. Freelancers who are done with a client can remove email correspondences, especially those containing small project updates. Just make sure to have a backup of all relevant documents like your drafts or invoices. Cleaning your emails from unneeded messages prevents your inbox from being swamped with unanswered, unread emails.
3. Unsubscribe to newsletters and promotions
It also works with subscriptions and newsletters. Sometimes you receive emails from subscriptions or promotional activities. If it’s still within your interest, of course, you can keep them. However, if you think you no longer need them, you can unsubscribe so you’d stop receiving emails from them.
It also saves you from a false sense of productivity. Instead of giving you a bunch of emails to delete during your routine cleanup, why not stop it at the source. Also, unsubscribing manually from their mailing list might sound like a tedious task but it’s something that pays off in the long run. If you’re looking to use an unsubscribe app or platform, remember that most of these services actually sell your email address to other marketers to keep their business going.
4. Synchronize mail with calendar
Some emails are one-off instances while others require follow-up. If you feel swamped and at risk of forgetting a deferred or scheduled reply, you can use filters as suggested above and make a note in your device calendar to remind you about this. This way, you can focus on the current task at hand and be reminded with an alert once the time comes for you to respond to a specific email. You can also use it to tie in tasks or projects and set their deadlines with the calendar app.
For Android devices, you can synchronize Gmail with Google Calendar. For Microsoft Outlook, which has its own calendar, you can simply use the “Create Event” function. If you’re using other platforms, you can manually set an alarm with the reminder and the location of the concerned email.
5. Turn off email notifications, or set them in batches
Your inbox causing your phone or your laptop to ring every now and then could steal precious time that could otherwise be used for more productive activities. Worse, it can even throw you off your momentum and affect your work. To avoid this, you can turn off email notifications to prevent new messages from distracting you from work. This works especially for employees who can allot a specific schedule for checking and responding to emails.
If you find turning off notifications altogether unappealing, you can try using third-party tools like the BatchedInbox plugin. This is one of the Gmail add-ons that lets you receive emails in batches. The plugin blocks emails from entering your inbox until the set schedule you’ve put in.
6. Use the Preview feature
Also known as the reading pane, this lets you see what an email is all about without having to click or open them in a separate window. This is a feature also available in most email services. However, there are instances where it’s not available by default, such as in Gmail or Outlook. You can simply enable this feature from their respective Inbox Settings windows.
By seeing the first few lines of an email, you can immediately determine whether you need to read it more, respond, or outright delete it–saving you time and the effort of opening a new mail.
Small practices can yield great benefits for you and your work, and the same goes for managing your email inbox. With these smart practices, you can start saying goodbye to the days of diving into a heap of unread, unopened, or unreplied emails. You no longer have to dread visiting your inbox that used to be filled with emails you no longer remember the contents of. A streamlined mailing inbox reduces stress and the unproductive time you can otherwise spend on more fruitful activities.
Kat writes articles with the hopes of reaching out to more people. Her writing is focused on lifestyle, science, and smart hacks, that will definitely (well, hopefully) be useful to her readers.