Cleaning Up an Out-of-Control Inbox
We don't all get the same number of emails. It varies from person to person depending on, for example, how many friends you have, how often you shop online and how many "subscriptions" you have to websites and more.
And that doesn't include all of the work-related emails you also might get every day. That's why it's not unusual for some people to have hundreds or even thousands of UNREAD emails in their inboxes.
How you got there.
One reason your inbox could be overstuffed is all of those automated emails that are sent out by companies and advertisers. One by one, you signed up to receive emails from your favorite shoe outlet or the sporting goods store, hoping for bargains. But maybe you got more than you bargained for. It seemed like a good idea at the time...but over time the unread emails (all of them) just added up!
That's part of the problem—they accumulate so fast and in mass quantities that overrun your inbox. And because we're all so busy, it seems wrong to take precious time just to delete old messages.
It's time to stop the madness. Here are some ideas to get your email inboxes under control again:
Step 1. Stop signing up to get MORE emails.
It's called "opting in"—the process of clicking a button in response to an offer to receive "valuable news and updates." When you click "yes" and give them your email address, you've "subscribed" to their automated email system. (Remember—it's a computer, not a store owner, sending out emails.)
The problem is, you never really know how often that website or advertiser is going to send you updates. It might be monthly or it might be daily. If you already have enough emails flowing in, don't sign up for more! Bonus tip: Stop giving out your email address just because someone asks for it.
One exception: the "WhatIsMyIPAddress.com" subscription to get "IP Insights." It comes just once a week, averages 160 words and will make you safer and smarter online.
Step 2. Stop getting emails from current sources.
It's called "opting out" —the process of taking steps to unsubscribe to an email list by letting them know you don't want any more emails from them.
Maybe you're thinking, "I don't have time for that!" But here's something you might not know: Gmail and other email programs let you unsubscribe right from one of their emails.
If you have Gmail:
- Go to a message from one of your subscriptions.
- Click "Reply," as if you're going to send a message.
- Look for the prompt that says you can "unsubscribe" by clicking a link.
- Click the link and say "Goodbye" to those emails.
Step 3. Do a mass delete of messages you'll never read.
Day by day your emails piled into your inbox, one at a time. But as you know, you can delete them in bulk by setting aside some time to clean out your inbox. Sure, this isn't news to most of us, but it's a good reminder. Remember this:
- If you haven't read it in one week, one month, or six months, chances are you AREN'T really going to read it. (Plus, a new one will be coming your way anyway...read that one if you want.)
Be careful, though. You can click the "Delete" box at the top of a page of emails to select all the items underneath, but if you trash them without a quick review of the list, you might regret it. Sometimes you can re-find them in the trash...sometimes you can't. Or maybe you won't even know you deleted something important. Work fast, but smart.
Step 4. Use your email provider's sorting or filtering features.
Most people don't take time to explore their email program's special features. On Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Outlook, you can arrange it so that emails from different senders will go straight to a separate folder that you get to name ("Retailers" for example). Gmail will automatically push your less-important emails into folders called "Social" or "Promotions." It's not spam, but it figures you'd like having less clutter. (Just be sure to check it now and then to make sure you didn't miss something important.)
Step 5. Go online for additional help.
If you want help with deleting emails in bulk, unsubscribing to accounts or sorting incoming emails, you can turn to online email cleanup services. Some charge a monthly fee (Mailstrom, SaneBox) and others might be free (Unroll.me). Check them out to see if they're worth your time, effort and dollars.
You will still have to get actively involved with your email accounts to get the transition underway, but the results could be dramatic and rewarding.