5 Steps to Tidying & Simplifying Your Inbox

Email marketing, let alone just standard emailing, is one of the most used and most effective communication channels in the world. If you don’t believe me, just check the stats. So unless you’re insanely good at resisting every offer, freebie, and download that comes your way, I’m willing to bet you have an inbox full of unread messages on a daily basis.

But please don’t tell me you’re one of these people…

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[Jokes?] Even if you are, I hope the below tips & tricks will help you create more organization, sanity, and efficiency over your personal email system. In a future post, we’ll get more into the nitty-gritty of email marketing and how to leverage an email marketing provider (i.e: Mailchimp, Convertkit, etc.) but first things first:

1. Unsubscribe

 If every time you open your inbox in the morning it induces a state of overwhelm, then it’s time to have a little unsubscribe session. I know it’s a pain in the butt, but think of it this way – you can either spend time constantly deleting emails (and ruin email marketer’s open rates) OR open the undesired email > scroll down > & hit unsubscribe –one time.

In a past post, I talked about the kinds of emails you should stay subscribed to, as having a few key favorites in each category (retail, industry knowledge, news, personal, inspiration/spiritual, etc.) that are consistently providing value or quality offerings is great. [That’s definitely something I’m trying to do for my own list!] Otherwise, bookmark your favorite sites, keep them written in the Notes app on your phone, or organized on a Trello board and read up on them whenever you’ve got the time!

The rest is just noise. I’m not saying that other’s email marketing is junk, I’m saying too much of anything, especially that kind of stuff, clutters your (digital) space when productivity is the name of the game. Keep interacting with the ones you are subscribed to and intentionally take advantage of applying their content – that’s what it’s for!

2. Labels & Categorizing

If you really love whatever mail you’re receiving and can’t bear to part ways with any of it, or maybe you still just can’t get to all of it in one sitting, or maybe you just need a better system for referencing older emails; then categorization is going to be your new best friend. In Google Mail [Gmail], you can create color-coded labels and sub-labels. You can make them as general or as specific as necessary. Ideally, every email should have a label, so it looks like this:

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Honestly, it’s not all that OCD, and it will give you a bit more peace and assurance when you open your inbox. Think of it this way, inboxes are like the new kind of filing cabinets. Back in the day would anyone of just thrown all their files into one big drawer with no rhyme or reason? I should hope not…

To set them up in Gmail:

Open your inbox, click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner > click settings > labels > create new label. You’ll also now see it over on the far left of your inbox. Click the little, colored square box next to it > label color > (select whichever color best resonates with that category to you!). When you’re viewing an individual email, you can also select the label icon at the top and check whichever categories it belongs to! Voilà! 

3. Keep Your Unread Emails Separated, at the Top

Another incredibly small but game-changing thing you can do is configure your inbox so that all unread images are always kept displayed at the top, so even if you like to pick and choose which ones you read in a given sitting, the unread ones in between don’t get buried to the bottom, never to be seen again.

Or, if you’ve read it but still need to come back to it, mark it as unread again and it will stay at the top versus showing up in chronological order with the rest of them. Once you’re finally done with it and have labeled it and left it as read, it goes back in order with the rest of the emails in the section below.

A picture illustrating how to set this up in a few clicks is below:

Gmail Inbox Configuration Unread First

4. Install the Boomerang Plug-in

If you’re using relatively any of the major browsers (Safari, Chrome, Firefox, etc.), you can download what’s called a “plug-in” that enhances your browser’s capabilities and gives you nifty little features and tools like “Boomerang“.

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Basically, it allows you schedule emails for a later send date (i.e: no more working and sending emails at odd hours). It also allows you to temporarily send emails away from your inbox, to return at a more desirable time (hence the Boomerang part).

For example, send bills that come in advance away until a day or two before their due date to remind yourself to pay on time. For more examples and a full video overview, watch their intro video here. Oh, and yup – it’s free!

5. Turn off Notifications (& Switch to the Gmail App)

This one has a little less to do with your inbox and more to do with creating email boundaries and balance. Maybe you’ve grown accustomed to the constant ‘ding’ on your phone, but unless every email you receive demands your immediate attention, I’d recommend turning off email notifications on your phone. Further, if you are one of those people that leave unread emails (as shown above), you can remove the annoying little number icon. Learn how to do that here.

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Extra credit for setting up “email hours” for yourself (if possible) and closing your email window while working on other tasks. i.e: Checking your email twice a day at 10am and 4pm. (I am definitely guilty of not doing this, and I realize it might not be realistic for a lot of jobs, etc. Just a suggestion! 

In regards to managing your inbox via mobile phone, I recently moved the iPhone’s built-in mail icon off of my ‘dock’ at the bottom and replaced it with the Gmail app. I prefer that interface and it doesn’t display unread messages from your iPhone screen. It’s also easier to view your labels and it shows only your “Unread” emails (see step 3) unless you toggle over on the app’s menu to “Everything”.

Note: If you have multiple Gmail accounts like I do, you can also easily add each account and efficiently click back and forth between accounts. No sign-in/out necessary!

There you have it – five quick and simple steps for tidying and simplifying your inbox! None of them are necessarily novel ideas, but it’s amazing how sometimes it’s just the littlest things that can make all the difference. Email can be such an incredible medium when used appropriately and efficiently. Let’s consider this Emailing Level 1. Emailing Level 2, coming soon!

Over & out,

kvh.

P.S. – If you have any questions about the above info, don’t hesitate to get in touch, or leave a comment below! To ensure you stay up on the latest tips & tricks of the trade, be sure to sign-up as a Dream Team Insider below.

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