How to declutter your inbox

Drowning in email and no time to fix it? Here's help...
Carl Heyerdahl on Unsplash

We all love a good declutter at home – what about at work? Whether it’s your home office or away, are you so bogged down by the clutter in your inbox that you can’t find anything and be productive? Here’s how to clean out your inbox quickly and easily – and keep it that way!

Clearing the decks in your hallway, pantry or wardrobe can make an enormous difference to your day-to-day life and have you feeling on top of your game as you begin each new day. Now you have the skills, a good clear-out can be applied to other areas of your life as well, such as at work.

Here’s how to clean up even thousands of emails from the ubiquitous inbox, helping to free your mind from the detritus of daily email. 

How to declutter your inbox
Take some time to establish a more efficient email system. (Credit: Marnie Hawson)

Top tips for decluttering your inbox

1. Filing foundations

Create relevant folders e.g. business, personal, medical, financial, house, kids etc. At work, create headings that are project-based and task-driven.

2. File away!

Move emails you want to keep into the folders – you can always go back to find them here. If you don’t need to action an email immediately, either file or delete it.

3. Unsubscribe

Review what is coming into your inbox and unsubscribe from as many senders as possible. We all get flooded with junk and even when it’s content or information you’re interested in, too much makes visiting your inbox even more stressful. You can always sign up again if you miss the content!

4. Create templates and rules

Create a block of templates and rules that summarise your working schedule, e.g.

  • your signature with mobile/phone number for when people really need to reach you (include days you don’t work so you’re not bombarded when not checking your emails)
  • standard requests and replies for frequently used work processes – prepare, format and save in a word document and keep handy on your desktop to copy and paste

5. Mass delete

Don’t be afraid to delete things. Choose a date and dispose of all emails before then. You’ll be surprised just how much is just clutter and if you need something you can find it in the trash or have it resent.

6. Think twice, send once

When sending an email think carefully to request/discuss everything you need to cover. This cuts down back-and-forth conversations that clog up your inbox and your brain space!

7. Keep it up

Once you have a clutter-free inbox, bask in the joy of a manageable load and resolve to keep it that way. Assess and set aside the best times each day for your to check email and action as per above. Set yourself a goal to return it to an uncluttered state before you leave each day.

8. Give yourself a break

Consider taking email off your phone altogether and turning off notifications when on holiday or over the weekend. It makes it very difficult to unwind if all you can see before you is a sea of emails!

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