5 Ways to Simplify Your Email

Mar 18, 2013 by

We all get bombarded with too many messages every day. From commercials and billboards, to text messages and emails, we have information coming at us all day long. Heck I have 7 or more email addresses, but I have setup a simple system to where I only see a few emails per day of the hundreds I receive.

When it comes to your inbox you are in control of what messages you receive and how and when you see them, so its time to take control and simplify your digital life and clean up your email box.

Your Truly Simple Action of the week is to take control of your inbox.  Here are 5 simple ways to do just that.

Unsubscribe Ruthlessly

First you need to unsubscribe to every email that is not providing you value. If you aren’t getting valuable information from the emails coming into your inbox, stop getting them. Every email you get from a company has an unsubscribe link in it somewhere. They are usually at the bottom, but can sometimes be a little tricky to find. Go through your inbox this week and as you get emails in that you no longer wish to receive, simply unsubscribe from them. Do this each day this week. By the end of the week you should have at least 90% of the unwanted emails stopped. This is a quick and easy process that only takes a few seconds per email and you only have to do it once.

Filter, Filter, Filter

Next, when you are getting emails you really want to get, it’s time to filter them appropriately. I’m using Gmail as my email, but most email clients offer this same functionality. If yours does not, switch to gmail.

Filter all your emails that come from businesses into a few categories. Here are some of the filters I have set up:

  • Stuff to buy – everything that is an ad from a store
  • Stuff to do – events, races, concerts, things happening around me
  • Travel – all my airline, travel emails
  • Restaurants – everything from a restaurant
  • Social – any email from a social network (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc)

You can set up whatever filters make sense for you, but start with a few categories and you can always add more as they make sense.

Now with those filters set up, it’s time to use them. Filter all those types of messages so they get filtered and skip the inbox. Yes I still get those messages, but I don’t see them until I want to see them. This is the key to managing your email. You can still get all the sales emails you want, but you don’t need to see them until you are ready to shop. This is the best of both worlds. When I am ready to buy something I search through my email for some deals or discounts, but otherwise I am not having to look at ads and sales that do not interest me. This also works great for when we want to go out to eat, I can check my restaurant filter and see if any of my favorite restaurants are having any coupons or deals.

Here is how you filter your emails in Gmail

filteremail

Open the email you want to filter.  Click on the More button and then select “Filter messages like these”

createfilter

 

This will start to create the filter for you.  It will automatically filter by the email address and thats what we want.  You can filter by almost anything as you can see there, but we are fine with the email address so click “Create filter with this search”

createfilter2

Next check the box to skip the inbox.  We don’t need to see these messages in our inbox, thats why we are filtering them.  Then check the box to apply your label.  Select the appropriate label or create one.  I filter all my airlines emails into my Travel filter.  Then check the box to apply that filter to all those messages that match that filter.  Then finally click the Create filter button.

That’s it!  This whole process takes only a few seconds once you get the hang of it and you only have to do it once per email sender and then all of those emails will now get filtered for you.

Archive everything

Ok, once you filter out all the business email your inbox should be only getting messages from family and friends. This is a simple and awesome inbox. It should be filled with personal communications of people you actually want to talk to.  This is a good place to be, but we can get better.  Its time to clean out the inbox again.  Don’t worry we aren’t going to delete all your email, we are just going to archive it.  Archiving, lets us get all that email out of the inbox, but saves it for searching later.  You can always go back and find any email you wish, but we don’t need to keep it in our inbox.

This one is easy, simply check the box to select all the mail (1) and then click the text link to select everything (2), and then click the archive button (3).

email archive

This is a clean inbox. Take a moment and revel in its beauty.  Now don’t freak out, all your email is still there and you can search for it anytime you need it, but now you have a clean starting point to which you can be organized.

I archive all of my email every friday.  So at the end of each week, I take everything, and get it out of the way.  A clean slate is a nice way to end the week.

Don’t Push

Now that you’ve got your inbox under control its time to control your smart phone.  Turn off all push functions and notifications for email.  It is YOUR email and YOU are in control of when you want to check it.  Don’t let that little phone push you around and teach you to respond to every beep and buzz in your pocket like a trained monkey.  Turn off push email so your email only comes in when you want it it to.  Second, turn off all notifications so again, you get to check email when you want to.  You are in control!

push

Not in the morning

And one last tip on email.  Do not check it first thing in the morning.  This is hard as you might use your phone as an alarm clock right next to the bed as I do.  I also still struggle with this one, but its important.  DO NOT check your email first thing in the morning.  Just as you are taking control of your inbox, you take control over when you check it.  Checking it first thing in the morning is a really bad idea as it tends to hijack your day and you haven’t even gotten out of bed yet.  When you check your email first thing in the morning you are giving permission to everyone who has emailed you to give you marching orders for the day verses doing what you wanted to do.  You will want to respond to any fire drill you find in your inbox and that is not a good way to start the day.  Don’t check your email.  It will be there later.  Do what you want to do first.  Get done the things on your to do list first.  Those fire drills will be there later and you can take care of them later if they haven’t already sorted themselves out.  Don’t let others dictate your day.

Remember, you are in control.  This is your inbox.  This is your life.

I hope you take some time this week to accomplish this Truly Simple Action and see how these simple rules for email can make your life better.

Ben…

Truly Simple Actions The goal of the TSA project is to improve your life and help make this world a better place, one simple action at a time.  Take time this week to do this one simple thing. Previous TSA’s:

 

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TSA #10 – Organize your life: Inbox edition

Jan 23, 2012 by

Part of the aim of these Truly Simple Actions is to make your life better.  I’m going to throw a sub-section into these around organizing your life.   There are many simple things we could do each week to help organize the space we inhabit and there in turn make our lives a little better.  Here is a big one.

Not big in the amount of time it takes to do, but big in the impact it will have on your life.  Everyday we are bombarded with advertising, messaging, memes, and actual letters from friends.  Unless your recently new to email, you probably receive too much of it.  If you are spending any amount of time deleting unwanted email, you are doing it wrong.

The Truly Simple Action of the week is to organize your inbox.

Your inbox should only be filled with messages you want to receive from people you know.  Period.  Full stop.

If you are spending time removing unwanted messages, then its time to fix that.  The good news is that email systems today have incredibly easy tools built in to help you achieve this goal.  I’m going to use Gmail as my reference.  I believe they are the best email out there today and if you are frustrated with yours, it may be time to switch.

This is a simple 2 step process.
Step 1: Remove everything you don’t want
Step 2: Filter everything else

Lets jump right in and get started with step 1.

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Get out of your inbox. 3 steps to email independence.

Oct 1, 2010 by

The other day a co-worker asked me how to turn on email alerts in Gmail.  I didn’t know the answer and more importantly I asked her why she would want such a thing turned on.  She replied, “so I don’t miss an important email”.  I followed up with “how often do you actually receive an ‘important’ email?”  And thus lies the problem.

Most of your email isn’t important.

But wait, doesn’t more email mean you are more important?  Working harder?  More connected to whats going on?

nope, nope and nope.com

Most of the time email isn’t work.  Its a distraction from the things you should be doing.  Its a crutch to help yourself feel and look busy.  Its not helping get the product done. Its not helping the customer with their problem.  Its a distraction that “feels” like work and its time to stop it.

I have a bad habit of living in my inbox.  Leaving your email open 24/7 and jumping every time the iphone buzzes with a new message.  This is a wonderful way to work if you want to get nothing meaningful done.  I am working on changing that habit and here’s how I’ve gone about it.

Step 1: Reduce

This one is easy.  The goal here is to reduce the amount of email you get.

The first step of this is to eliminate all extraneous emails.  Simply unsubscribe from all of those messages that come into your box that you don’t want, you don’t read, and you just throw away anyway.  Go through all the messages in your inbox and do a clean sweep of everything you don’t want and get rid of it.  Unsubscribe, unsubscribe and unsubscribe some more.

Step 2: Filter

Gmail just came out with their Priority Inbox feature which helps a lot with our goal here, but it still isn’t quite where we want to be.  You want to filter your mail so only the really important things hit your inbox.  You can still get the rest of the mail, but you just don’t need it in your inbox distracting you.

I’m doing this in Gmail but you can do it any email program.

1. Select the message you want to filter and choose “Filter Messages Like These” from the menu

2. Create the filter and select the criteria by which you want to filter.  Gmail is great at doing this for you and it will usually filter by the email address, which is fine for this process. You can also filter by the subject or key words if you need to.

3.  Now figure out what you want to do with those messages.  We want to skip the inbox as much as we can here.  You can also select to mark it as read which is great for emails you may want to get and keep but aren’t important to look at.  I do that with re-occurring bills that are the same every month.  For this example I am filtering all my Groupon deal emails into a filter I call “Stuff to buy”.

How you set up what filters you have is up to you.  I’ve created the following for my setup:

  • Stuff to buy – these are promotions or ads for stores I like and buy from
  • Travel – my frequent flier updates or emails for travel sales
  • Events – events and local stuff happening around me
  • Bills – bills and stuff

You can create as many filters as you want.

Step 3: Get to zero

Rinse, and repeat as necessary.  Now as you go through your email start unsubscribing from all the crap you don’t need and filtering the ones you want but don’t need to read right away.

I only get emails that are important or that I want to read in my inbox.  Once I’ve read it it goes in the archive folder.  I keep only those in my inbox I still need to do something with, i.e. follow up, or research something on etc.  Then on Friday’s I go through and purge everything into the archive folder.  The goal (for me) is to have no mail in my inbox.  Its a clean slate.  A new start.  And its a great feeling.

I’ve been doing this for several weeks now and here’s what I’ve noticed.

As you begin you will feel a great sense of peace sweep over you but you’ll still check those other folders when you see the little numbers next to them.  This sensation will pass.  You will soon start checking those folders only once a day, or once every other day, then once a week, then less.   Its such a great feeling to not be a slave to email.  I now get very little email and I love it.  All of it is sorted and waiting for me whenever I get around to looking at it.

Additional tips for you iPhone users: (applicable to all smart phones)

Turn off push email delivery and turn off sound alerts and vibrations for when mail arrives.  Don’t let yourself be setup to be distracted.  You don’t NEED to know IMMEDIATELY when you have a new message.  That’s what this is about.  YOU are in charge of your email and YOU will get around to checking it when YOU want to.  Don’t let your phone dictate what you are doing and when you are doing it.

This email method allows me to only see important emails in by inbox.  All others are sorted and I can dig for them on my iPhone if I want, but I don’t.

I hope this works as well for you as it does for me.  If you’ve got a good tip on managing your email please email me: ben (at) trulysimple.com.

Ben…

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