Today's step is about slowing the flow of emails into your inbox. If you're busy reading your emails you may not have time to read your magazines, books, and other printed material, so those items end up adding to the paper piles.
We are information seeking creatures. It makes sense to keep learning and gathering information. However, information is only useful if you can access it, use it, and share it. If you haven’t had time to read it or act on it, the information coming in is not useful. It’s not achieving its purpose or improving your life.
Here are the top seven strategies for gaining control of your email inbox:
Delete your email account and create a new one. Yes, this is drastic, but think of it as a do-over. You now have a better idea of what you read and what you’re interested in so you won’t have last year’s interests mixing with today’s priorities. When I had to kill my business email account that I had had for ten years and start over, I was initially frustrated and angry. The following week, when I had only prospect and client emails to read, was one of the most relaxing weeks ever.
Create a “junk” email account that you use only for unimportant sign-ups. The ones where to get a VIP card for the store, you need to give them an email and then the store sends a weekly promotional email. This “junk” email account allows you to access the emails when you want to without overwhelming your inbox when you’re looking for the personal or business message you need.
Create filters or rules that send emails from specific senders or subjects to a folder automatically. Most email servers have this option. For example: Outlook® uses the term ‘rule’ and the term ‘filter’ is used by Gmail™.
Unsubscribe email by email. Every marketing email or email list you subscribed to should have a link that allows you to unsubscribe. Pick an email and click the link. I’ve found that most of the unsubscribes work great and only one or two don’t seem to actually unsubscribe me. If an email continues to come after unsubscribe – block it or create a filter or rule to have it sent directly to your trash.
Use the Email Preference Service (eMPS) to remove your email from national lists. eMPS is a consumer service sponsored by the Data & Marketing Association (DMA). Go to DMAchoice.org and scroll to the bottom. Below the main header image is a section entitled “More Than Just Mail” and you will find the link for Email Opt Out Service.
Or you can go directly to https://www.ims-dm.com/cgi/optoutemps.php.
Check out Unroll.me to see if this service will work for you. Unroll.me is a free service that will identify your subscription emails, allow you to unsubscribe to ones you no longer want and create a daily digest email, called the Rollup.
Pros: you get to stay subscribed to emails you want, look through the daily digest when you want, and keep your inbox clear. I’ve known several professional organizers that love Unroll.me.
Cons: You provide your email username and password to Unroll.me to allow them access to identify subscription email and roll it up into the daily digest. One more place your information can be accessed by hackers. Make sure you're comfortable with the security and privacy policies. Other issues voiced on discussion sites include: a one-time requirement to share on social media; and all the emails that were rolled up and taken out of the inbox return to the inbox when you close your Unroll.me account.
I don’t use Unroll.me but I’ve heard from fellow organizers that they love it. I want to at least introduce you to this tool so that you can make the decision for yourself.
Do nothing. Doing nothing to stop the flow of emails is always an option you can choose. Once you decide to allow the emails to keep coming, you do have some options to maintain control of your inbox.
Ignore it. Who says you can’t have 10,549 emails in your inbox and still be relaxed and at peace. Decide to ignore the number and change your expectations.
Delete it. You can delete email by email. Every once in a while, you can sort your emails by date and delete anything older than 3-months, 12-months, 2-years, or whatever dead-by date you set. A dead-by date is the length of time you’re comfortable with setting, believing you won’t need the email again. It’s probably longer than it needs to be, but start somewhere and evaluate as you go.
Move it and then delete it. You could create a folder and move old emails (read and unread) into it. Set a dead-by date and then delete the folder. I always suggest naming the folder your dead-by date so you know when to delete it.
Pick one or more of these strategies and begin to stop the flow of email. The idea is not to stop all paper and information from coming in but to reduce the flow to a manageable stream. Somewhat like going from a fire hose to a garden hose and then eventually to a soaker hose.
You will also free up your time to do the fun things you’ve been waiting to do. Your home, your inbox, your mail and your magazines, and even your to-do list will be released from unimportant and unwanted paperwork. You’ll be able to focus on the priorities. Think of this as inviting only your friends to stay; or allowing the A-listed information to cross the threshold while keeping the B-listed items out at the curb.
Need help getting your paper piles under control?