7 Ways To Clean Out Your Email’s Inbox

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7 Ways To Clean Out Your Email’s Inbox

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s a cluttered inbox. If I have more than 15 or so emails in it, I start to break out in a cold sweat and see that little black and white swirly thing movies like Vertigo use to show dizziness. It’s not just an OCD thing either. If you don’t keep up with what’s coming into your inbox, you could miss out on something important. So here are some tips to keep your inbox organized and clutter free:

1. Use more than one email account. Create a separate email account for things that are not directly involved with your business or nonprofit. For example, if you are a member of online communities such as industry forums, use a different email address to receive notifications from them. My account was initially clogged with private message notices and posts to threads I started or had participated in. Same goes with social media accounts. I was having trouble finding my actual work in my work email. So now I use a different email address for those. You probably already have more than one account anyway, so just make sure your work email is, ya know, for actual work. But if you don’t want to bother with checking different email accounts….

2. Filter, Filter, Filter. I use Gmail Apps for my business email. One of the great things about Gmail is the ability to label and filter incoming messages based on criteria such as who sent it or what the subject line is. For example, I help write a blog post for a client she calls “Mixed Links.” Basically it is just a compilation of links to reports, articles, conferences, etc she thinks her readers would be interested in. When someone sends her a link to a report or post she wants to use she forwards it to me with the words “Mixed Links” somewhere in the subject. I have set up a filter where anything that has that phrase in the subject line bypasses my inbox and is archived with the label “mixed links.” When it’s time for me to draft the post, I simply go to that label and everything is right there. This goes hand in hand with…

3. Label, Label, Label. A friend of mine once told me about the OHIO method of dealing with inboxes. OHIO as in “Only Handle It Once.” It’s a good theory, but with as much as I have to do in a day there is no way I can actually deal with every email as it comes in. Nor can I tell what every email will involve just from the subject line. In other words, I am going to be handling it more than once. So what I do is open the email, if it’s something I can take care of fairly quickly I answer it, label it and then archive it or delete it. If it needs to be done later, I will “star” it and label it something like my “HELLO?” label which is stuff that needs to be looked at first and is a bright red color. I also have labels based on projects, services and completed projects among other things. More than one label can be applied too so I can label what the project was and add the “completed projects” label as well. Even if you don’t care about having an empty inbox, this is a great way to keep everything organized.

Or you could bypass your inbox altogether. One of the best ways to keep your inbox clutter free is to avoid the amount of stuff sent to it to begin with. Here are a few ways to do that:

4. Use a Blog Reader. As much as I would love more email subscribers to my blog, if you read a lot of blogs, these notifications will fill your inbox quickly.I use Google Reader, but there are lots of services you can use. For more popular blogs, Alltop is another great way to keep on top of your favorite blogs.

5. Dropbox. Dropbox is a file sharing program that allows you to share files by simply dragging and dropping them to a folder. I have severely cut down on the amount of email sent and received just by adding files to shared folders instead of sending them as attachments.

6. Basecamp. Basecamp is a project management system that allows you to add To-Do lists, set deadlines, create whiteboards and make comments on project tasks as opposed to sending 100 different emails about a topic. Checking Basecamp is now as normal for me as checking my inbox.

And my final tip on managing your inbox:

7. Hire someone. If all this stuff seems like it would take entirely too much of your time, a virtual assistant, such as myself, can set up your filters and labels for you. Or if you are sick of weeding through what’s important and what’s not on a daily basis, let me take over the entire problem of managing your inbox. I can sort through the garbage and bring the important stuff to your attention. Or do you find yourself answering the same questions over and over again? I can quickly answer those without the cold unfeeling disconnect you get from an auto-reply message.

7 Ways To Clean Out Your Email’s Inbox

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