The New Year can be a confounding time. Resolutions and goals can be both invigorating and overwhelming. To be sure, it’s a good time to streamline and become more productive. We encourage you to do this without going overboard and burning out! One way to keep that balance is to more effectively manage e-mail —which can get out of hand quickly. Nothing makes that more clear than being unable to email, due to sickness, vacation, or bad connectivity for a few days and returning to a few hundred email. Here are some tips for starting the New Year off right that we hope you will find helpful:
1. Get fewer e-mails. Plain and simple.
• Go through your mail and unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read and make sure your spam settings are set to the appropriate level. For the newsletters you do need, actively go to the distribution settings to unsubscribe from affiliate offers, less important information, and request condensed digest versions where feasible.
• If a website requires an e-mail address (ie online shopping) to send you notifications you need (like shipping information) but are mostly clutter, we recommend sending them to that e-mail account you created years ago with the embarrassing handle. That way your important mail is not being overcrowded.
• Filter e-mails into folders (sales, news, bills, personal, projects). Again, this ensures these e-mails are available but not taking up real estate among your urgent, current messages. (If you are a mostly mobile user, remember you MUST actively visit these folders to see new messages.) This also makes for easier recovery when searching for a specific e-mail also.
2. Move e-mails out of the inbox as quickly as possible in order to keep your mail organized.
• Delete your unneeded e-mails and move anything you’d like to keep into a specific folder. (This has the added benefit of enabling the longer term save functionality of most email services.)
• Answer quick and easy e-mails when they come in—these “I’ll get to it later” quick emails seem to be the messages that get lost in the jumble most often.
• Create a folder for e-mails you’ve answered but aren’t ready to delete. Apart from using just flags, you might create an Action, Follow Up, Days of the Week, or other high-use folders to get folders out of your inbox and into a place where you will work with them quickly and efficiently.
3. Consider going to the next level.
• There are a lot of options out there for mail management, but we thought we’d share information about Sane Box. Sane Box is a service that studies your e-mail habits and diverts most incoming messages it has learned are not urgent into a separate folder to be viewed later. You determine the frequency at which Sane Box sends you a list of diverted e-mails to be viewed at your pleasure. If nothing else, try the free trial. (For Gmail users, this is similar to the Important feature, which we recommend turning on in viewing preferences. Then, actively tell Gmail what is and is not important to allow it to learn. It’s a huge time saver!)