Here’s how to win back control over your email.
1. Make a System
Create folders within your email account to help you stay organized. Examples might be “action items” or “not urgent.” As you finish reading an email, file it away into the right folder. If you need to refer back to an old message, use keywords in the search bar to find it easily.
2. Schedule Check Times
Plan time to check your messages only two, maybe three, times a day, but no more. Give yourself enough time to get to the bottom of your inbox. If a message requires more than five minutes for a read and response, put it in a “to-do” folder and add the contents to your task list.
3. Delete Liberally
Too many of us are email hoarders. We think we’ll have time to read a message later so we keep it. Or we feel like we should save everything in case we need to reference something in the future. Quit it. Delete the bulk of messages – and take solace in knowing most systems keep deleted email for several days at least, just in case you make a mistake.
4. No Lingering
Don’t leave important emails in your inbox for days. Answer as soon as you receive the message during your scheduled email times, and never, ever let more than 24 hours pass before responding. If you know your answer will take a while, send a quick note to let the sender know you received it and you’ll be in touch.
5. Simplify Subscriptions
Use Unroll.me to see all your current email subscriptions in one place and to select ones you’d like to unsubscribe from. For those you keep, Unroll.me bundles all promotional messages into one email – you don’t miss out on special offers, and you also don’t have to open and delete multiple messages a day.
6. Modify Your Out-of-Office
Few things are as daunting as an overflowing inbox on the first day back from vacation. Change your out-of-office message to say, “I’m away from 4/15 to 4/21 and will have no access to email. Please resend your message after 4/21 or email my colleague Joe at email@example.com.”