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Email Inbox Insanity: Organize and Enjoy Electronic Communication Again

Has Your Inbox Become a Source of Chaos and Frustration?

Technological advancements have improved many areas of our lives.  We now have life-saving medical equipment that can help you get through a health crisis.  We can engage in audio-visual communications with people across the world at any time during the night or day.  And the email inbox allows us to overflow with rich information that we just can’t get enough of.  Hey, wait a minute, can’t get enough of email?  I think it’s more like, we have TOO much of it!  However, given a choice, I would never willingly give up my email.  I connect with family, friends, colleagues, potential employers, and future clients all with my email.  But, I needed to do something about the abundance of emails I was receiving and make sure that it remained beneficial to my life.  Read on and see what has helped me end the insanity and tame my inbox tiger!

inboxFarrell Nobel/ Unsplash.com

Keep the Barn Door Closed

  • Don’t Subscribe If You’re Not Really Interested.

    In case you didn’t notice it, everyone wants you to give up your email address these days, so they can contact you again in the future.  In order to make it more enticing, they often give away what is called a “freemium.”  The word freemium is a combination of the words free and premium.  The good part for user is that you do walk away with free, often highly valuable item.  The benefit for the seller is that you may later purchase something even more valuable from them at a higher premium price.  Freemiums are great, in fact, I have acquired several recently that I can’t wait to read and learn from.

    The problem with this marketing strategy is that it is very easy to start getting way too many emails.  This is a great way to avoid missing things without having to think about it or look for it.  When I post a new blog or podcast, I send out an email to anyone who has asked me to letting them know.  The problem with this marketing strategy is that it is very easy to start getting way too many emails.  The thing you need to remember is to ONLY sign up for things you are interested in.  For example, don’t sign up for recipes on how to prepare beef dishes if you’re a vegetarian.

  • Unsubscribe to Things You No Longer Want.

    Once you do sign up for an email list, remember that you’re not married to it for life!  Make it a part of your weekly routine to take a close look at what type of mail you have been receiving and UNSUBSCRIBE from anything that is no longer beneficial to your life.

    It can feel like you’re being disloyal, but in all honesty, our needs and desires change regularly.  I have two adult children and I don’t currently have any grandchildren (at least that I’m aware of!).  Do you think that I would benefit from emails regarding healthy baby food?  Years ago, I would have and I may in the future too but not today.  Now, maybe I saw an ad for healthy ways to feed your family and I signed up for the list.  My definition of family may have been different from the company or person who placed the ad.  All I need to do is simply unsubscribe, no harm done.

Organize your Closet

  • Don’t Mix Things Together that You Can Keep Apart.

    If you’re not regularly a fan of home improvement strategies and strict organization systems, you’re going to want to listen to this anyway.  Refusing to organize your inbox is like mixing 15 cereals into the same big container and then deciding you want Cheerios for breakfast.  Have fun with that!  Seriously, who has time to pick out individual Cheerios?  And if you tried to do that with bare hands, what type of germs would you be spreading?  Oh, and won’t the other cereals get on the Cheerios and contaminate them?  Mixing your cereals together would be setting yourself up for disaster.  Don’t do it!  Keep your Cheerios in their own box and you can easily get them when you want them!

  • Setup Folders

    Every email program is slightly different, so I can’t give everyone the directions they need to do this here.  But I can tell you where to find the directions you need.  On the upper right hand part of the screen in your email program, you should find a drop down menu that shows you the word “HELP.”  Once you open up the help screen, you can type in questions and quickly find out how to do something.  Here’s an example from Gmail.  I typed in “filter messages” and found directions easily.

    email help

    Imagine 20 children walked in the door of your building wearing either a red, blue, green, or yellow shirt.  Your boss wants you to separate the children by the color of shirt they are wearing.  So, as the children come up, you start telling them where to go.  When you’re done, you have four groups of children all separated by colors of shirts.  So, when you want to work with the Blue team, they are easy to find.

    The same thing can be done with email.  You separate each mail piece coming into the inbox so you easily find what you need later.  I like to separate email in terms of who sent it to me or what the topic is.  There might be a Bob, a Sue, and a James folder.  I also could choose to have one called Nutrition, one labeled Exercise and one refer to Funny Stories.

File or Delete

Telling you to file or delete each email is the easiest one to talk about, but it can be the hardest one to do regularly.  In order to keep in control of your inbox mail, you will want to set up a schedule to deal with the mail.  Here are a few suggestions that may help.

  1.  Designate Times to Deal with Email.

    Checking email can easily be an all-day affair if you let it.  Instead, I encourage you to set up times to do this.  Twice a day is ideal, one in the morning, and one in the evening.  But that’s too frequently for you, once a day is fine.  And, of course, if you job requires more of you; try to limit it to once an hour if possible.

  2.  Make an Immediate Decision.

    The reason you need to designate times, is because you have a job to do here, it’s not just mindlessly browsing your favorite social network.  As you open each piece of mail, decide to deal with it right then and there.  Decide if you want to respond immediately, file it in one of your folders to deal with in the near future, or delete or archive it if you don’t need it.

  3.  Clean out the Box before Bed.

    Life happens to all of us.  An emergency can pop up in the middle of dealing with your email that prevents you from keeping on track.  No worries play catch up at the end of the day (or end of the workday) so that you start with a fresh slate in the morning.

Reflection Questions:

  1. How much control do you currently have over your email inbox?
  2. Do you think starting to use one or more of these strategies may help you?
  3. Which techniques do you plan to try?

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2 Comments

  1. My Inbox currently contains thousands of items, so, needless to say, your title caught my attention! My answers to your questions are None, Yes and All of Them. I’m going to start with setting up folders, designating times to deal with email (instead of catch as catch can) and cleaning out the Inbox at night. Thanks, Dr. Terri, for helping me tame the tiger!

  2. Hello Blaik!

    Since you’re local to me, I would be glad to lend a hand in person one day if you would like. Just let me know.

    Dr. Terri

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