We live in a very connected world. We must know everything and know it now. So we have our computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Without them we would feel a little disconnected.
One of the most efficient ways to communicate in this connected world is through email. With email, we can very accurately communicate many details and we can do it on our time schedule even when the person we want to reach is unavailable. Email is an incredible tool. The problem is that we get way too much email. Some may be from our favorite clothing retailer and some may be daily coupons from online stores. We get jokes from friends. We get heart warming stories that usually aren't even true. Over time our super productive little email tool becomes a big mess. Our inbox contains dozens of emails that we need to see hidden amongst the hundreds or even thousands of emails that really have no value to us at all. For many people, managing email consumes way too much of their day. That is certainly not very productive.
So what can we do about it? Unfortunately, there is no one silver bullet for cleaning up your email, but there are many, many little things that you can do that together will make a big difference in your inbox organization. Some of the techniques I use were shared by a friend. Others I read in a book on productivity and some others I came up with on my own. While most will apply to just about any email client software, I use Outlook 2010 so some details may be different for you.
This is step one. Look through your inbox. See all those unread emails from J. C. Penny, Amazon, Ebay, Home & Garden and all the others? They are unread because you have not made the time to read them. You have not made them a priority because you have other more important things to spend your time reading and doing. Do you really think that at some point in the near future you are suddenly going to have the time and the desire to start reading them? Stop kidding yourself. You need to get rid of them. So open one of each of them and click that unsubscribe link at the bottom. Some will immediately tell you that you are unsubscribed. Others will make you enter your email address or confirm in some way that you really do not want their email anymore. Of course you never want to do this in a Computer Corner email from Preactive IT Solutions!
So you have unsubscribed from the weekly email from Best Buy, but you still have dozens of their emails scattered throughout your inbox. Find one of them and click on it to highlight it. Now click on the "From" header at the top of the inbox to sort the emails by sender. Now all your Best Buy emails are grouped together so you can easily delete them. Do this for all the other emails you need to get rid of.
If the email does not have an unsubscribe link or keeps coming even after you have unsubscribed, then right-click on it and look for Junk in the menu. Move your mouse over Junk then click Block Sender. Outlook will automatically move emails from this sender to the Junk E-Mail folder automatically in the future.
File Reference Information
Another benefit of our connected world is that we get many of our insurance, utility and other bills via email now instead of the mail box. You may want to hold onto some of these, but not in your inbox. I have a folder underneath my inbox called Reference. Under the Reference folder I have a Vendors folder and folders for some little projects I am working on. I move emails from my inbox to one of the Reference folders when I know I want to keep that email for future reference. You can use Rules in Outlook to automatically file these emails away as they arrive.
File Actionable Emails
I used to keep emails that I need to respond to in my inbox, but the busier I got, the more there were. So now I have two more folders called "Action Needed Later" and "Action Needed Now". If an email comes in that I need to act on in the next few days, I put it in the "Action Needed Now" folder. If an email comes in that I need to act on, but I can do it later when I have some free time, then I put it in the "Action Needed Later" folder. This helps to keep my inbox clean. Using this system it is imperative that you work through your "Action Needed Now" folder every day or two and your "Action Needed Later" folder at least once a week. You may find it interesting how many of the later emails become worthy of the delete button after they sit for a week though. Suddenly they are not as important.
I hope these tips will help you make your inbox more manageable. If you need help setting up rules, configuring Outlook or have any other computer needs at your home or business, give me a call. Also, please share this information with your friends, but you might want to fax it because their inboxes probably look just like yours.
Know someone with business or home computing issues? Do them a favor and send them to Preactive IT Solutions!