Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Take command of your email

A common New Year's resolution many of us made this year is "to once and for all take control of my email" and perhaps even attain the email nirvana of an empty Inbox. Problem is we made the same resolution last year, and the year before and nothing changed. So if you made that resolution, and if you use Gmail, here are some tips. Getting an empty Inbox is particularly hard in Gmail since it encourages you to never delete an email, guaranteeing that your account storage will never max out. This encourages people to leave messages in the Inbox even though they've been dealt with. Soon dozens, then hundreds and eventually tens of thousands of emails stack up dating back to the first day you started using Gmail. Gmail seems to only let you select mails a screen at a time, so deleting or archiving them becomes a tedious chore never completed.
   There is a solution. You can reasonably assume that emails more than a few months old probably no longer need your attention. There is a way to bulk delete or archive all emails in Gmail before a certain date. Follow these instructions from PC World - you can decide on the date, but archiving the emails rather than deleting them is advisable since they are still searchable by Gmail.
    Okay, you've now got a few dozen to a few hundred emails in your inbox and there's no choice but to manually go through them. You'll find most can be be quickly archived leaving a small subset that still require your attention. Also, whilst you're doing this every time you delete a mail ask yourself "Is this a mail I always delete without reading"; a newsletter from a gym you no longer attend or an online store you once used perhaps. Take the time to unsubscribe before you delete; this will save you time in the long run. Ruthlessly unsubscribe yourself from mailing lists you are no longer interested in or never joined in the first place.
   Now you've got your inbox down to just a handful of emails and nirvana is in sight. It is now time to change your relationship with your email so you control it. A colleague, Barry Smyth, recently published on his blog A 10-Step Plan for Productive Email. I recommend adopting most of these steps as appropriate to you. Good luck, and I hope you reach email nirvana.