Keeping your inbox under control can feel like pushing water up hill, but with a little effort and a few handy tools an inbox zero on a daily basis is a real possibility.
I have a love/hate relationship with email, well to be honest mainly a hate relationship. It can seem like a never ending stream of important, not so important and completely useless information bombarding our senses 24 / 7.
Tip 1 - reverse order your email by date
Most of us have new emails appear at the top of our email client. By changing this to have the oldest email at the top you can immediately see the scale of the task ahead. If you have emails dated several weeks or months old these can almost certainly be deleted after a quick scan. Once your email box is under control keeping oldest first will ensure that you don’t get distracted by new email arriving and instead concentrate on taming your inbox.
Tip 2 - subscribe to www.Sanebox.Com
If your email supplier uses IMAP (most do) you can use this service to make a real difference to your inbox. It scans your email and if an email appears from someone you haven’t previously had a dialogue with it files it in a “sane later" folder. You can then scan this folder every few hours deleting the bulk of the email which will probably be notifications, newsletters and other “spammy” communications. This tool took my inbox from over 400 emails a day to 60 a day. If you reply to an email in the “sane later” box replies will arrive in your inbox from that point onwards.
It also has a “sane black hole” folder where you can drag emails and they will never hit your inbox again. This provides a really quick way to effectively unsubscribe from newsletters or notifications.
Tip 3 - create to-do lists from your email with www.Nozbe.Com
If an email needs action and I can’t action it in under two minutes following David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology then I add it to my task manager as a “to do” and add a date. This ensures that I don’t forget about an important email in a cluttered inbox or a “must do later” folder. There are a variety of different systems but I love the task manager Nozbe. Using their email feature I can forward emails to Nozbe and they get turned into an actionable to do, with the subject line as the title. The rest of the message can then be seen in Nozbe by clicking on the title.
Tip 4 - send reading to www.Evernote.Com
If I need to read something at a later date such as a newsletter I forward this immediately to Evernote where it is turned into a note. I sync my Evernote on my mac with my iPad so I can review this reading when on the Tube or travelling to meetings.
Tip 5 - use macros to automate tips 3 & 4 with www.Keyboardmaestro.Com
I use Keyboard Maestro to automate the Nozbe and Evernote process. This application allows me to set up a macro so a key press will forward an email to Nozbe or Evernote and delete the email message once forwarded as well! I use 2 macros with Nozbe as one of them sends information to may regular “inbox” and one to my “priority list”. It is an Apple Mac only bit of software but there are numerous alternatives available for PC’s.
If you follow all of these tips I am more than confident that you will see a real difference to your inbox, as I type this post I have 6 emails to deal with in my inbox and it’s after 5pm on a Friday!