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Cleaning up Your Email Inbox

While Christmas time can be very hectic, it can also provide you with a little bit of personal downtime (maybe?). And while what I am about to say may seem laborious, it’s not that bad and if you do have a little bit of extra time while reviewing your email over the holidays (or during any little lull you might have), this is the perfect opportunity to tame your email inbox.

Newsletters and Information

Over time we have the tendency to sign up for various newsletters and informational messages that, at the time, seemed logical to do so. Other times, after purchasing something on the Internet or attending a webinar, we begin receiving newsletters and information seemingly out of the blue.

Eventually, these email fall into one of the following 3 categories:

  1. Want to receive and want to read as soon as possible.
  2. Want to receive and will read at some indeterminate future point in time.
  3. No longer want to receive.

Some of the time, regardless of which category an email falls into, we press the delete key on the keyboard, click the delete icon in our email interface, or say “delete message” with Dragon. Other times, we leave the message in our inbox and are determined to return to it at whenever we feel we have time. And then the process repeats over, and over, and over again. It may not seem like it takes up valuable time, but every moment you review a message, time is consumed and dealing with these messages can add up — especially if you have a lot of hobbies and interests.

Minimizing the number of email messages in your inbox assists in remaining focused on the truly important tasks at hand. Following are a few tasks you might wish to consider undertaking to tame your inbox.

Personal anecdote: about a year ago I was pretty good at maintaining no more than 35 email in my inbox at any given time. Over the last 6 months I have watched that number climb to 80, 100, and sometimes almost 150. It became much harder for me to locate specific email immediately. This resulted in more wasted time. Yes, I categorize all my email to assist me locate a specific email at a glance, but for me, it became unmanageable, and I was using the time-consuming search function far too often. And thus, this post was born.


How many newsletters and informational email that you receive on a regular basis are truly no longer necessary for you to collect?

Scrutinize every such email and make that hard decision – should it stay, or should it go now?

If you no longer benefit from this type of regularly sent email, take a few moments to scroll to the bottom of the email where the UNSUBSCRIBE link or button resides, click on it, and remove yourself from the list. The time it takes you to perform this task is likely the equivalent of deleting a couple of these email.

Move Messages to a Folder

Consider creating one or more folders in your email inbox, labelled according to your preferences. Perhaps you have one folder for reading as soon as possible, and another for reading someday. You may also wish to create folders according to subject matter.

With these folders in place, as you triage your email throughout the day, move the newsletters and informational email into one of these folders the moment you touch the email. Don’t let it linger in your inbox unless it is truly vital.

To perform this task quickly, consider making time-saving shortcuts in your email application (if supported), with a macro program, or, if using Dragon, a voice command.

Create a Rule

After creating appropriate folders as mentioned above, some email applications support the creation of a rule that will move incoming messages to a specific folder based on the parameters you set. Typically, several keywords that only exist in that newsletter or informational email, or an email address, and so on.

With these rules in place, you do not need to move the message manually. It will happen automatically. THEN, as time permits, you review the contents of those folders.

The benefit of this action is that the email does not remain in your inbox, cluttering it up and serving as a distraction.

The downside is that you may inadvertently steer important messages into one of the folders because of the keyword or email address parameters set within the created rule. Monitor these new folders for the first month to ensure that the rules created only affect the messages you wish.

In Closing

If you use Dragon, I am happy to assist you in creating voice commands to perform the above tasks efficiently. Contact me.

At some point in the future, I hope to expand on this post and discuss how to create folders and rules in Outlook, although the concepts can be googled.

Now… Back to my inbox.

Cheers and happy holidays.

Image used in title graphic by master1305 on Freepik.