How many unread emails are sitting in your inbox right now? 50? 100? Over 1000? Or are you like me and hate seeing the big number glaring at you, so you just mark them all as “read” to pretend your inbox isn’t as bad as it is. But that’s just a band-aid and a bad one at that.
Let me show you how to apply the GTD (Getting Things Done) Method to your inbox. Learn more about GTD here. With the GTD Method you can declutter your inbox, never lose an important email and finally reach that mythical “inbox zero”. You will Capture, Clarify, Categorize, Choose your next action and implement a Daily and Weekly Review. Plus I’ll introduce you to my favorite inbox decluttering tool. Let’s get started!
This is pretty straightforward since your email already is an inbox. If you have multiple emails, consider simplifying down to just one.
Now we’re going to clarify what we actually want coming into our inbox.
First, do an initial purge of your inbox. If you don’t think there’s anything too important in your inbox you can just dump the whole thing. Some people subscribe to the philosophy that if an email was important, whoever sent it will contact you again. I’m a little more cautious and prefer to purge in chunks.
This is best done on a computer or tablet, it won’t work as easily on your phone. Purging can take some time, but not much concentration, so it’s good work to do while you’re watching TV or listening to a podcast.
Most of my email clutter comes from store sales and newsletters, and blogs that I follow, which won’t cause a catastrophe if deleted en masse. I look at my email and look for an offender that I know I get a lot of emails from, Kohls for example. I search for “Kohls”, then select all the emails that come up and delete them. One chunk down! I get daily balance updates from my bank. Search for my bank, select all the emails that come up and delete.
Keep doing this, slowly deleting chunks of emails that aren’t important. This can take a while, but you can be sure when you’re done that only important emails will be left. Your goal is to clear the clutter and get your number of emails down to manageable number.
Now that the clutter has been cleared, we never want to have to purge like that again. That’s where unroll.me comes in. It’s a free service that’ll roll your emails together into one single email. It’s the best thing ever. Instead of getting 10 emails from 10 different stores telling you about their sales, you get those emails rolled together in one email. You pick and choose what you want to be rolled up.
AND! Unroll.me also helps you unsubscribe from emails you don’t want and are just clogging up your inbox. Instant clutter relief! After you sign up, edit your subscriptions to either roll up, keep going to your inbox or unsubscribe. It’s really easy to change your roll ups and subscriptions anytime.
I roll up all my newsletters and sales notifications and not only does it relieve inbox clutter, it’s also easier to glance through the one email and see if there’s anything important, if not, with one click, I can delete the whole group. Whenever my inbox starts to feel like it’s getting cluttered again, I’ll reassess my roll ups and subscriptions.
Now that your inbox has been purged, it’s time to categorize what’s left. You might find a few stragglers that are junk, just delete them as you come across them.
I like to categorize by project, plus a few other folders that make a place for everything and everything in its place. These are my categories:
- Stronger challenge
- Coupons & Deals
- Uber Frugal Month
- Personal Emails
- Saved mail
- Upcoming Events
I have a tendency to sign up for monthly email challenges, but I’m not very good about doing them as they’re sent out. I make a folder for each of the challenges and store all the emails there, so I can do the challenge whenever I want. No comment on whether I actually get around to doing any of the challenges later…
You’ll notice I bolded 2 of the folders, Purchases and Upcoming Events. These were 2 of the main things clogging up my inbox, so I made a place for them! Purchases is where I put invoices for things I’ve purchased online, but haven’t received yet. Upcoming events is where I put emails that contain e-tickets to an event I’m attending, links to an upcoming webinar, or information about an event coming up.
As you’re categorizing your emails, leave any emails in your inbox (just for now) that require action on your part.
4. Choose Your Next Action
Now, all that should be left in your inbox are emails you need to do something about. It may be a bill that needs to be paid or a recipe you want to save. If the action is something you can do in 2 minutes or less, just do it and delete the email. Like pinning a recipe to Pinterest. If it will take longer than 2 minutes, write down what your next action is on your to-do list and categorize the email.
If you find yourself storing emails in your inbox- stop it! Make a place to store the email or process it and delete it. If you want to save that recipe, make a folder to save recipes or save the recipe to Pinterest and delete the email altogether. We’re trying to reduce emails, not just file away clutter.
5. Daily Review
Congratulations! You’ve reached inbox zero! Now you need to maintain it. Once a day, go through your inbox, deleting clutter (and unsubscribing to reduce your clutter coming in), categorizing emails you want to keep, and processing and deleting what you can. Unroll.me should help reduce your clutter significantly. Don’t leave until your inbox is back at zero.
6. Weekly Review
What about those emails you saved to purchases and upcoming events? Once a week, go through the folders to see if anything can be deleted, or if you need to follow up on any of them.
Once a week also look through your folder categories and see if there are entire categories you no longer need and can delete. Maybe you were hoarding a blogger’s past newsletters, but you never actually look at them. Or you have a whole email series about a project that ended years ago. Whatever is it, identify it as clutter and get rid of it!
That’s it! By capturing and then clarifying and purging your old emails down to a manageable size, you can finally categorize what’s left and identify any action that needs to be taken on the remaining emails. A daily and weekly review will ensure your inbox never gets out of control again!