Get to grips with your cluttered inbox…not as scary at it sounds!

Image from here

Image from here

Are you sinking under more emails than you can actually deal with: newsletters, correspondence, bills, special offers, junk mail – the list can be endless, and even if you aren’t on the receiving end of huge amounts of electronic mail there’s a strong possibility that you still check your account more often than strictly necessary during the day or get distracted by social media, texting etc. There is a regular flow of electronic messaging in our day to day lives, fact, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed and occasionally (if you’re being honest) panicked.

So how do we counter this relentless flow of electronica? Fret not, we’re not suggesting anything so crazy as ditching the lot and doing a so called ‘detox’ from social media sites, texts and emails, this is far more revolutionary…and *whispers* has a modicum of good old common sense. Here goes: you own your phone, it does not own you: just because it pinged, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pick it up and check it – it’s not a small helpless baby, it’s tech, you are it’s boss not the other way around. Revolutionary thought no?!

Ownership established, as the majority of us are smartphone users, let’s start simple: set a different tone on your phone for your notifications so that you know instantly if you have received a text, email or social media notification. Sounds simple enough, and many of you may already be on to this, but combined with some will power this will help you cut down on data distraction no end. Schedule your email checking so that (unless you are waiting for something specific – though do remember the old adage ‘a watched kettle never boils’ – or your job is such that more frequent email checking is required) you aren’t wasting precious time refreshing your screen on the off chance there might be something interesting there in your inbox.

Limit yourself to checking it two or three times a day if you can, and if you set yourself specific times to actually sit, engage and nail the influx rather than flitting back and forth between screens you will get it done far more efficiently. Email and social media can become the electronic form of constantly checking the fridge when you’re bored, just in case something super tasty appeared in there since the last time you checked it! Obviously within some lines of employment hourly might be preferable, but you will find your own schedule with practice. For the really disciplined amongst you, take it a step further and switch your email alert to silent once your working day is done or it’s guaranteed to ping and niggle away at you until you just have to check it…then reply… and boom, it’s 10pm and you are still working even though you left your desk hours ago. You’ll probably find it bugs the heck out of your other half too…

Next up is a bit of a biggie: be honest, do you have an organised inbox or is it a mish mash of tasks needing to be dealt with, active conversations, offers from Amazon and the like, junk mail, unopened old messages and general dross? If it’s the latter of these two, consider yourselves gently scolded: this is your inbox not a general dumping ground! Do you leave post and junk mail ‘filed’ on the floor at the front door? No? Didn’t think so. Be brave, make a folder in your inbox and call it ‘backlog’, move any mail that is older than say 3 months and put it all in to this folder. Realistically, if it were urgent or needed a response, whoever sent it would have either resent it or called you by now. You can either be brazen and delete the lot or go through it methodically and filter out the rubbish and archive the rest. If an email comes in and you know instantly that it’s either junk (hopefully you have sent junk/ spam filters on your inbox so shouldn’t get too many of these) or you don’t need to read it for whatever reason, rather than ignoring it, delete it straight away. If it is something that you don’t need to action but do need to keep, file it in a folder for later. Emails that do require actioning should be dealt with as soon as possible then archived off into the relevant folder. Hey presto, much cleaner, leaner looking inbox!

Most email providers offer methods of filtering your inbox aside from the usual junk folder, so you can group conversations together, Gmail for example filters mail into ‘social’ ‘promotions’ and ‘primary’ – I’m sure it does much more too but I will put my hand up and say I’ve not mastered it fully yet as I’m still an old Hotmail (now Outlook) girl at heart!

Sounds straight forward enough really doesn’t it…just spend a little bit of time putting it in to practice and hopefully this will reap rewards for you too. Let’s us know how you get on or if you have any other tips to share please!

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One thought on “Get to grips with your cluttered inbox…not as scary at it sounds!

  1. This is a subject – especially the phone ringing and ordering me to check whatever I received- I have been annoyed with a lot! so this article is just in time.

    I would also suggest checking emails after getting couple of important highlights of the day done.

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