Three Simple Tips to Reduce the size of your inbox


People are often surprised (or shocked) when they see or find out that I always clear my email box at the end of every single working day.

This almost religious belief in having empty inbox has allowed me to focus on what is really important and get more done throughout the day.

Regardless of how small or insignificant each individual emails are and how quickly you can scroll through them, people are often distracted (and often disheartened!)  and repeatedly waste their mental energy as they review their fully stacked inbox numerous times throughout the day. It is a big drain on productivity and simply  a BAD IDEA!

Here are three simple tips that you can try to start reducing the size of your inbox today:

  1. Unsubscribe         Do you really need to have those 3 newsletters hitting your inbox everyday? Do you really need to know what your frequent flyer balance is every single week? In most cases, the answers to those question are no. In most cases, we actually know where we could go to find the relevant the information without being kept up to date on a day to day basis.      I never paid much attention to these “newsletter” email until they became out of control. The enemy of unsubscribing from these email is actually the delete button. We often find it easier to just hit the delete button without realising if we invested 1 extra click and clicked on the unsubscribe link, we would be saved from these emails FOREVER.     
  2. Automatic Filing        
  3. For information that do need to hit your inbox and you do need to have a record of, the tricks is to allow them to land in your inbox but not stay there. Things like archived invoices, technical discussion lists and educational materials are examples of emails that you want to keep but don’t necessary need to read or review the actual emails.      Most email clients today (web or desktop) have auto filing or archiving functionalities that allow you to file archive email automatically (and remove them from your inbox) based on certain rules that you have defined. Perhaps you want to automatically file all emails that are from a particular discussion list, or contain a particular keyword in the email title.      Here are the instructions for Microsoft’s Outlook and Google’s Gmail. Start being precious about what actually lands in your inbox.     
  4. Don't use it as a todo list        
  5. This is the evil of all inbox explosions. People often happily let their inbox built up because they treat it as a Todo list. After all, you can’t have an empty Todo list?      The inbox is a BAD Todo list because you have no control what actually goes in there! It is also a BAD Todo list because there are no obvious markers or obvious context that differentiates the important from the un-important tasks.  Outlook has a very good Todo section and there are also a number of very good web based Todo systems that works with the GTD principle such as Toodledo and RTM. Start filing your email away and use a separate Todo system, not only will your inbox become smaller, you will also tick off more todos :+)

What about you, do you suffer from inbox explosion? Do you have any tips on how you keep your inbox under control?