Is there anything else that’s as useful, prevalent, and frustrating as an email inbox? It’s been around forever and we keep using it, and as long as we keep using it, people like me will keep writing about it. You probably think it’d be easier to tame a lion than tame your inbox, but there are tools that will make you think twice.
There are built-in features for some email services that will do most of the heavy organizational work for you. Some email experts have devised techniques to help you tackle a cluttered inbox and reclaim inbox organization. And then there are gamification options that make it fun to deal with your unread emails. Use one of them or use all of them – either way, take back control of your inbox today!
Do you get a gnawing sensation in your gut every time you peek at your inbox? “Never-ending treadmill” is a term that may be applicable – those emails just keep flying in. Even when you clear it down to zero, it just fills right back up within a matter of hours (or, God forbid, minutes). Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com, developed a technique to deal with this exact issue.
He calls it the “Yesterbox Technique” and the concept behind it is simple: when you open up your email, your to-do list for today are all of your emails from yesterday. This puts a finite cap on how many emails you have to manage. As you read, respond, and delete those emails, the number of remaining emails constantly heads toward zero, providing a sense of progress and achievement.
There’s a bit more to it than that, of course, and you can read the whole breakdown of the technique on yesterbox.com.
Emails wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t for the sheer volume that we have to deal with. When you see a million emails that need to be sorted out, it’s easy to freeze up in fear or laziness. Why not turn that whole process into a game, then? That’s what the makers of the Email Game asked themselves.
The aim of the Email Game is to clear out your inbox as fast as possible. We don’t want to just select all and delete every email at once – which would feel surprisingly good – so Email Game presents you one email at a time. You can reply to it, archive it, or boomerang it (brings it back to your inbox after a set period of time). Doing all of these things earns you points.
At the end, you see your final score and how much time you saved while using the Email Game. The points don’t really mean anything, but the game itself is a fantastic way to transform an otherwise mundane task into something enjoyable. Read Justin’s review of the Email Game.
Did you know that Gmail will automatically sort and organize your inbox according to priority? It’s a feature that’s aptly called Priority Inbox and it’s the perfect mixture of simple and helpful. Basically, it divides your inbox into three sections by default: priority emails, starred emails, and the rest. You can add more sections if you’d like and you can select which labels automatically filter into which sections.
Never again will you need to slog through Facebook notifications and unimportant newsletter updates – they’ll sit at the bottom of your inbox until you’re ready to view them. All of the important stuff will sit at the top, ready for you to tackle it ASAP.
Filters are another great way to keep your inbox organized. You can think of them as criteria for incoming emails – if the email matches any of your filters, it’ll be sorted according to the actions for that filter. For example, you can set a filter that takes all emails from “firstname.lastname@example.org” and labels it as a “Work” email.
Filter creation is easy yet flexible. There are some really creative uses for filters and your creativity is the only limit on how you want to use them. Check out Craig’s useful Gmail filters for organizing your inbox.
Ever feel like you’re constantly pushing out the same emails, the same responses, the same messages day in and day out? What you need are canned responses. “What are those?” you ask. Well, imagine you have a shelf of cans and each can holds a certain type of email response. When you need one, you pop open the can, pull one out, and send it. Or in other words, template email responses.
You can save a lot of time with these. Like, a LOT of time. Check out Tina’s overview of Gmail canned responses for an in-depth look at what you can accomplish with this awesome feature.
Managing a single email account is hard enough as it is. What if you need to keep track of two email accounts? Or more? Not only do you need to do a lot of signing in and out (unless you use something like a desktop email client), it’s just a hassle having to swap from inbox to inbox. If each inbox is large enough, you’ll find yourself in constant messy confusion.
Fortunately, Nancy has written a guide on consolidating email into a single account. She covers the step-by-step process for Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook (formerly Hotmail), and general mail forwarding. For those of you with multiple email accounts, this solution may revolutionize your emailing.
There’s no reason why you need to look at your inbox and be filled with that impending sense of doom. Email shouldn’t be frustrating or fearful. Using the tips and tools above, you can flip that around and start living a new life that’s void of inbox fright. Don’t let email control you – take control of it!
Have any other tips and tools for reclaiming your inbox? Please share them with us in the comments!