Saturday, January 22, 2011

Gaining Control Over Email

Project #1 (Laundry Room) is coming along nicely.  I only have a couple final things left to obtain, so I'm hoping to have that done tomorrow!

In the interim, I have realized how much time I spend trying to keep control of my personal email inbox.  I'm guessing that I probably receive between 30-50 emails a day from various newsletters, stores, financial institutions, and occasionally from actual people I know.  That adds up to a lot of backlog if you don't stay on top of it, and that can be difficult since I don't have that much time to spend on my personal email every day.

At work, I like to keep my inbox fairly clean and only keep action items visible in my inbox, with everything else sorted into folders.  I like to do that at home as well, but every couple months I'd get to a point where I'd have hundreds of emails still in my inbox and I'd have to spend a significant amount of time clearing it out.

Following a similar process to the OMP (Organizational Master Plan, thanks Laura for the acronym!), I first thought about what I could actually eliminate (the unclutter step).  I wasn't willing to part with most of it, but I did find a few things that I never ever read or use, and unsubscribed to those mailings.

The next step was to figure out how to better manage the remaining items.  First, there are things that I'd like to continue receiving, like store coupons and sale emails, that I like to have as references when I do shop, but that I don't really need to read every day.  I set up Gmail filters on these that will label them, mark them as read, and bypass my inbox.  This way, they're automatically filed into "Shopping" without me lifting a finger.  This is also budget-friendly; since I don't see the sale emails, I'm not tempted to do any shopping unless I have already made the conscious decision to look in the "Shopping" folder.

Some other regular emails I either need to read or enjoy reading.  For these, I set up filters, but the only thing the filter does is apply a label.  It still sits in my inbox until I read it, but once I do I can just hit "Archive" without having to go through the second step of picking a label.  It's a minimal time savings, but every second counts!

This has really helped over the last few days; I feel like my personal email is much more manageable.  Yes, it took some time to set up (I have almost 50 filters set up, and they took maybe 30 seconds each to create), so it'll be a huge time-saver in the end.


  1. I'm so impressed that you're doing this... it's also a recent project of mine, except that, with very few exceptions, I haven't deleted an email since I got my gmail account about 5 years ago. I think I'm going to follow your model and start using filters :)

  2. Sounds like things are progressing nicely...even with bonus projects! And I'm glad I could contribute to the streamlining process with an acronym :)

    Sam and I just took a full car-load (trunk AND back seat) of crap to Goodwill, which gave me a nice little connection to your de-cluttering. I feel so refreshed now! I have this intense desire to create another pile to get rid of, but I think I'm rapidly approaching the place where I actually USE the stuff that's left.

  3. Mary, I rarely actually delete emails, so the "Archive" button is my friend. :-)

    Laura, it is refreshing, isn't it? And there will be more mini projects to come...this whole simplification thing is quickly becoming addictive!

  4. Wow, I just read this as I finished cleaning out my e-mails for the week. This is a good idea. I've toyed with the idea of setting up filters and labels and now I might play around with it more to do the same thing. I have also spent some time unsubscribing to e-mails that I somehow get on two e-mails. Now I just need to get down to using 1 or 2 e-mail addresses. I think I have like 3 gmail accounts, 1 yahoo, and then my work e-mail. I still have others floating around that I never check too. Sad.

    Keep up the great work, my friend! You are inspiring me. :)