Manage Your Email So It Doesn’t Manage You

Your email inbox is out of control.

If it’s not, congratulate yourself. You are one of a true minority that can say that.

For most people, we are inundated with emails that come from or are related to:

  • work
  • friends
  • family
  • newsletters
  • ads
  • news
  • invoices and bills
  • deals
  • services you use
  • renewals
  • google alerts
  • tips and insights
  • general notifications
  • spam
  • other

That’s quite a lot, right there.

So what’s a girl (or boy) to do?

Why Should I Minimize Emails?

The main reason is because emails are a huge distraction. It causes us to lose focus on our immediate tasks at hand – the tasks we’ve determined will get us towards our goals.

Somewhere in time, we became addicted to email. It was/is an easy way to communicate.

Then, people (mostly companies) realized it was a great way to market to others. In fact, an email list it’s still promoted as the best way to market to people. Companies give away stuff for free (i.e. guides, newsletters, tips) in exchange for your email. That’s Inbound Marketing, folks.

But I digressed there. Sorry.

The main goal here is to take back some control of your email.

It stands to reason that the less email you receive, the less you feel you have to be constantly checking your emails, thereby putting all the focus in the right place.

Ask a Few Questions to Help Eliminate Email Overload

Some emails you can’t necessarily control easily. I would argue that everything can be minimized or deleted altogether but let’s focus with the emails that aren’t from people you know, be it personal or work.

While I believe that multitasking is mostly a myth, in this case, you can definitely do it.

The next time you find yourself watching a sporting event (especially golf) or The Voice or anything that doesn’t require you to concentrate on every little thing that happens, grab your computer or mobile device and look at all those emails that aren’t from work, friends, and family.

Go back through your emails for the last week. Ask yourself the following questions for each email.

  • Do I really still read this? Sure, 3 years ago, that newsletter may have provided a lot of value. But things change. Does it still bring you value? If not, get rid of it.
  • Did I leave it there to read later? If you left it for later, did you ever go back to it? The problem with later is that it rarely comes. For most people, ‘later’ emails just pile up until you just delete them anyway.
  • Is this a notification for a bill that’s due? If it’s a recurring reminder, stop sending them to yourself. Create a repeating task on your task list like paying bills every xth day of the month. Your email is NOT your task list.
  • Do I get this same information from a different place (i.e. social networks, phone apps)? Cut out redundancies.
  • Do I need to get this at the same frequency as I’m now getting it? Sometimes, you can control how often you receive an alert, deal, tip etc. Back it off and see if that has any effect on your life. After a month or two, you may realize you can delete it completely.

On top of those questions, are there any emails that you tend to delete as soon as they come in? Newsletters are a good example of this.

I had someone suggest that I sign up for a newsletter because they thought it had so much great info. After getting them for over 2 years, I realized I deleted it more often than not. Worse, I felt guilty not reading it. So not only was it clogging up my inbox, it was making me feel bad. Lose-lose.

The Big Finish

As you may know by now, I’m a big believer in purging. I don’t try to live a minimalist lifestyle but I feel everyone can learn a lot by purging.

I’m not saying that emails don’t have value. But you want to make sure they continuously bring you so much value that it’s worth filling up your inbox.

After you do this email purge once, everytime you get one of these types of emails, ask yourself the questions above and if they don’t add value, unsubscribe (or change the frequency) immediately.


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