Last Updated on February 28, 2023 by John Prendergast
Your inbox is your life. You write a LOT of emails, and you receive at least twice as many. It’s one of your strongest tools for client communication, and it’s almost always connected to you through your smartphone. But with hundreds of messages sitting in it, read but lingering, it’s impossible to find the information you need at the moment you need it.
Keeping track of all of the hundreds of emails that go in and out can be a daunting task. However, the more clutter you have in your inbox, the less attention you are able to give to the emails that actually hold importance.
We’d like to help you wash clean and prioritize your inbox. It’s time to get rid of…
…The Email You Read and, For No Reason, Never Deleted.
To keep the number of emails in my inbox at zero (yes, zero!), I employ the OHIO method: Only Handle It Once.
Is it spam? Delete it immediately.
Is it a reminder for an event that’s already in your calendar? Double check the information, and delete it.
Is it genuinely important communication? Respond as soon as possible, write down everything that’s relevant, and go ahead and delete it.
If you act on every email the second it enters your inbox, you keep room open for the newest emails to take precedent.
The I-MAY-need-this-information-later-so-I’ll-keep-it Email.
Your email is not your to-do list.
Sifting through your entire inbox can be a pain as it is, so why force yourself to do it when you’re trying to remember information a client sent you about a meeting or when you need to find the address somebody sent you for a special event?
When you make the event in your calendar, leave space to take notes. As you receive emails, you can update your calendar with reminders to yourself to “bring a copy of the last quarterly report”, “meet in the lobby at 11:00”, or anything else important. If not a calendar, make a note on your smartphone, on a sticky note, or your actual to-do list.
Take other information down in a place it belongs. Add it to your files, make note of it in a document, or add it to your client portal.
If the date of the event has passed, there is usually no need to keep hold of the email. You don’t need to hold onto outdated information.
The Email You’ve Been Keeping for the Contact Information.
Some of us may be guilty of keeping emails to make sure we can contact a person later. There’s an easier way to do this – just update your email’s address book.
Before you delete an email from somebody you are corresponding with for the first time, plug them into your virtual address book. If you aren’t sure if you have somebody in your address book, double check before you delete it. This way, you’ll have every necessary email address on hand without having to search for it. Then you never have to keep hold of any outdated messages just for the email address attached to it.
The Email You’ve Been Keeping for Sentimental Value.
While you understand that you want to keep your email empty of anything non-essential, there may still be a semi-legitimate reason you’re holding onto old emails.
Some personal emails you may want to keep in order to look back on them. Loving emails from your SO that make you feel nostalgic, an email from a friend or family member you want to remember someday, or chain emails that made you laugh. Then there are others you want to keep for business reasons. Digital receipts, account login information, or documents you hold onto for legal reasons.
The solution is easy. Every major email service allows users to create and name personal folders outside of their inbox. Keep this organized by keeping your emails in multiple corresponding folders. You can also download emails to backup on your personal hard drive.
This compromise allows you to hold onto emails while still keeping your inbox 100% empty and dedicated to incoming messages.
The Automated Mail You Can’t Seem to Get Rid Of.
For automated emails from any company, there’s a very simple solution to get rid of it. The popular search feature of your inbox isn’t there just for show. Use this feature to search for the word “unsubscribe”. Emails with the word “unsubscribe” will contain a link to a page that will allow you to very quickly and very easily opt out of the emails you have been receiving.
Every automatically sent email will have this feature. Those that do not interest you, you can very easily opt out of. Keep your inbox updated, and receive automatic messages only from companies that you genuinely care about or want to hear from. If you’ve been getting updates on your Blueleaf account, you can choose exactly how often you want to receive emails to avoid getting them more often than you’re able to keep up with them.
Now, all you need to do is empty your inbox daily.
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the OHIO method, begin to clean out your inbox on a daily basis.
Most of our emails could be read and deleted in less than 30 seconds. The rest of our emails can usually be responded to in 5 minutes or less. Keeping an empty inbox is easier than many people make it out to be, and cleaning it out as you go saves you the hours it would take to do so if you put it off.
Is your inbox cluttered or clean? Share your tips for keeping a well-organized inbox in the comments!