Reducing Email Clutter - More Blog Posts to Come!
Do you find yourself drowning in email? Are you frozen in fear of “out of sight, out of mind” so if it’s not in your inbox you’re at risk of forgetting to do it later? In other words, is your inbox basically your “active todo list”?
Is it working for you? Maybe. Kinda sorta. Probably not.
I get asked by Clients ALL THE TIME about how I manage my email inbox - everyone struggles with it! The next few posts in the Getting Organized Series will focus on reducing email clutter.
I get it. Been there. Done that. And yes, I have tried lots of different solutions, and my methods have changed and evolved over time. I hope they will continue to do so because that means I’m streamlining and improving my methods!
One thing I know for sure? I happen to be at an age where I’ve witnessed the widespread adoption of email as a form of communication in business and in the home and boy-howdy have things changed since the 90s.
And much like the challenge of keeping paperwork and file folders organized, your email inbox has become a massive digital black hole that sucks all your time away.
“But I don’t have time to fix it . . .”
Um, you don’t have time to waste either, and trust me, implementing changes now may take a few extra minutes in the beginning, but you’re going to get so much time back!
So let’s get started with some of these solutions!
|Cost||Included with Gmail and G Suite accounts|
|Pros||Organize emails into specific categories, avoid using your Inbox as the catch-all|
|Cons||Requires some discipline and procedures for handling the labels (this can be challenging for some)|
Would you like to try G Suite Basic or G Suite for Business? Request coupon codes for 20% off! (These special links help support Your Favorite Assistant to try out new things and test them on your behalf - plus you can save money!) Each code is limited to one per domain, so use this handy contact form to request yours today!
The Right Way To Use Labels in Gmail
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use the Label feature in Gmail. The wrong way is creating random labels and applying them without any sort of procedure.
Gmail Labels can easily clutter things up if you don’t have a procedure in place. Does the email require Action? Do you Need something from someone? Do you want to store the information for Reference later?
The right way is to think of Labels fitting specific categories for why you need to label, act on, and/or keep an email:
You could come up with a few more of course, but for me, these 3 main categories work very well. But these 3 categories aren’t Labels!
Action Labels in Gmail
First tip: keep your individual or single labels requiring action to a minimum. Make them stand out by naming them with a “!” at the beginning to denote action. (Bonus: this keeps them at the top of your label list).
(Note, the numbers denote the # of unread emails - I prefer to keep emails unread in this instance so I can see at a glance how many items I may be dealing with).
Sometimes I don’t need an individual action label, I need to note that the email itself has lots of action items for a particular client. So, if you’re like me and handle multiple clients or multiple projects at once, Setting up a main “_Active” label with sub-labels underneath is a GREAT way to keep your inbox clear of clutter!
Here’s an illustration of emails related to client work. Every morning I have at least 30 minutes of admin time to go through my emails, respond when necessary, etc. If I receive an email that doesn’t require immediate action - I “file it” under this active client label to address when I am scheduled to perform work for said client. I only implemented this a couple of months ago and it has worked incredibly well!
Some impersonal emails have an automatic email filter in place to skip the inbox and apply the label. Since I work in scheduled blocks of time with clients, I know to check for those types of emails then. This has been the perfect way to handle massive amounts of email related to bookkeeping tasks that don’t require my response.
Labels to Note Need in Gmail
Because I use Boomerang to snooze emails for later (more on that in another blog post!), I have found that having a couple of labels noting why an email is in an Active Client label has been helpful. For example, I may be “Waiting On Reply”, so there’s no action to take on my end yet, but I want to keep the email in the Active Client label list. Handy if I’ve got close to a dozen or more emails with that label so I can focus on the others.
Reference Labels in Gmail
Reference labels are for items I want to hold onto but they’re usually archived. Yes, I can archive all of the emails I don’t need anymore and don’t want to delete, but having a few specific labels to keep things organized is a great way to keep things separated.
For example, I am a Squarespace Circle Member, and I label all of their communications with a specific label for me to reference later. It’s been really handy to revisit notes and posts about a specific product release, learn about a new feature they’ve rolled out when I have more time, etc.
Follow the steps outlined in my “5-Minute Solution for Unwanted Email” to rid yourself of unnecessary newsletters and clutter that have built up over time.
Carve out 10-20 minutes every day (first thing in the morning) and sketch out your own outline for how to Label your emails. Having dedicated time in your calendar can work miracles. Write out how you want your labels to appear including the sub-labels.
Once you’re confident with your outline, ask yourself, “will this move emails OUT of my inbox to act on during a specified time? Or will it keep emails IN the inbox?” (If you answered “IN” then I recommend refining your action plan to work with the Labels.)
Implement your new Labels and enjoy a much less cluttered inbox!