I’m one of those people who likes to be organized. I am type-A to the core, and I’m thrilled by perfectly filed papers and fresh school supplies and neatly lined shelves. And yet, I have 4 young kids. Order, as appealing as it is, comes with a time investment that I simply do not have.
So, for many years, my inbox has taken a hit. My type-A-ness has forced me to have zero “unread” messages in my inbox, but the number of emails sitting in my inbox is 12,354. That number is so huge it invites instant anxiety! What could possibly be in my inbox that I’m forgetting about? That I’m not responding to? That needs a reply but is buried amongst mountains of other emails?
I decided to take swift action. I gave myself a week, a few hours a day, to pare everything down to a manageable number. What would manageable even be? I wasn’t sure if I could accomplish this feat in a week, but here’s how I did it (ahead of schedule, even!), and how you can do the same.
1. Delete subscription emails in bulk.
I used the “search” feature in gmail and systematically looked back into my emails and noted any emails from mailing lists. I unsubscribed from ones that I no longer needed, but also used the batch delete feature so none of them were lingering in my inbox forever. This took the most time out of any step in this process, but it got my emails from 12,000 down to about 6,000. Incredible.
2. Systematically archive and file emails you DO want.
In Gmail, my email provider of choice, you can create files to separate emails and keep them sorted and out of your inbox. I made categories like “Family,” “Friends,” “Kids,” “Lifegroup,” and “School,” to easily separate out emails that fell into these categories. You could even make categories for individual activities, like soccer or ballet, and group the emails relating to these endeavors. You could do folders for each kid, and separate their activities and relevant information. Whatever seems intuitive and helpful, do that! I went from about 6,000 emails to only 2,500 emails by doing this step!
3. Go back in time.
Finally, I went back to the very oldest emails in my inbox. With my display set to show 50 emails on a page, I scanned through these pages and filed or archived any necessary or sentimental emails. Usually, this was only 1 or 2 emails per page. And then, I batch deleted the rest. Emails from 2011 are hardly relevant or helpful now, so this didn’t take long and it was a super speedy process. This step allowed me to go from about 2,500 emails down to 30 that were actually needed.
Ahead of schedule, in 3 days, my email inbox went from 12,354 to 30.
Moving forward, I also have these guidelines in place to keep it that way!
-Use the “star” and “flag” system.
If you have gmail, you can star important emails, or flag emails that need a reply. You might be familiar with the flag and the star, but have you heard of the colored star system? I hadn’t. But if you go into your Gmail settings, you can add this feature and have more color options and categories to use! I have a system now to use certain colors to star things that relate to me, my kids, or my kid’s school. I flag anything that needs a reply or has an important date in it. That way, when scrolling through my inbox, I can easily see what needs attention, what to mark on the calendar, or what needs a reply.
-Designate a specific day of the week to get emails back down to a manageable number and reply or delete as necessary.
For me, I have certain emails I need to write every Monday, so I also use that time to purge my inbox and file or reply to emails that have been lingering in my inbox.
It’s so easy to sign up for mailing lists. It seems like every time I purchase something, I get signed up for yet another email onslaught. So I try to nip these in the bud and unsubscribe at the very first opportunity.
I hope this helps other moms keep their inboxes in check! Let me know if you have any great email tips in the comments!