Unsubscribe from everything, play with Gmail’s new filing features and try these apps to manage your email.
Unsubscribe from out-of-control email.
Three in four workers feels “overwhelmed” by the number and frequency of the emails they receive, according to a 2017 survey by tech company Edison Software. This leads to one in three feeling stressed, and one in five feeling angry, about too many emails in their inboxes.
And these messages aren’t just messing with your state of mind; they’re also killing your productivity. Workers in a 2015 Adobe Systems Inc. survey reported spending 6.3 hours a day checking email, including 3.2 hours for work and 3.1 hours for personal emails. Perhaps that’s because Edison Software also found that a third of workers said they get 100 emails a day, and one in 10 receives up to 200 — so it’s no wonder that almost half (44%) of us are worried about missing an important message.
Some email providers are trying to help overwhelmed users tame their inboxes. Gmail just rolled out several updates last week, such as hitting “snooze” on emails that you don’t need to read until later in the day, tomorrow or future dates; as well as automatically filing messages under tabs including Primary (direct correspondence with actual human beings, like family, friends, colleagues and clients), Promotions (ads and coupons from retailers and sites you subscribed to) and Updates (news alerts and upcoming events). There are also AI-powered features like Nudging, which reminds you to respond to emails that you may have missed or forgotten about.
But those features don’t control the sheer volume of emails that you receive each day. So Moneyish reached out to digital business coach and productivity expert Deb Lee for help. And the good news is, you can free yourself from email overload — and without getting all the way down to Inbox Zero — by starting with this simple step:
“Unsubscribe,” she said. “The number one mistake we all make is that we sign up for too many things; maybe you want to order something online, and the site says if you sign up you’ll get 10% off, so you do, and now you’re flooded with their newsletters every day.” Retailers often share your email with their partner brands, so you can start getting promos from them, too. Or perhaps someone you met while networking has signed you up for their newsletter.
So before you even start deleting unwanted messages from your inbox, first prevent more emails from piling on and making matters worse. “Just deleting those messages isn’t solving the problem,” said Lee. Set aside a few few minutes — maybe 15 minutes, maybe half an hour in the morning or afternoon — and start purging the newsletters and promos that you haven’t actually clicked on in forever. Look for “unsubscribe” — often in tiny print — at the end of the email. Or Gmail has an “unsubscribe” link at the top of many promos, to the right of the sender’s address.
“I wouldn’t necessarily advertise spending hours cleaning up your inbox first, and then trying to maintain it, unless that is really important to you,” said Lee. “Just unsubscribing is a great first step because it sets you off on the right path.”
Here’s how to stay on track:
- Tackle emails in groups by eyeballing your inbox, and looking for the most repeated senders and subject lines. Or you can search for common words (“sale” or “alert” or “invite”) and delete or file away those messages all at once.
- Then think twice before signing up for other offers and newsletters. Lee likens her inbox to her living room. “If I’m inviting someone into my home, I have to sit down and spend time with them,” she explained. “So if I invite something into my inbox, I need to want to spend some time with it.”
- If you still think you do want to subscribe, give it a monthly trial period, and set a calendar alert to check on it in a few weeks. If you haven’t used those coupon codes or read through those newsletters more than once by the end of the month, then unsubscribe.
- Next, get ruthless about your newsletters. “Ask yourself, ‘When was the last time that I opened it? Do I ever really read it?” said Lee. (But not the Moneyish newsletter, obviously, which is awesome. Sign up here.) “If it’s a blog or a news site that you do really enjoy, do you really need this in your inbox, or can you do an RSS feed? Can you use Feedly (a news aggregator site and app) to get to that content, or follow the publisher on Twitter and Facebook, and get the information that way?”
- She also recommends apps such as Pocket, which lets you save articles, videos and other links to check out later, and syncs across your computer, tablet and smartphone. (This can also declutter your saved browser bookmarks.) Or the productivity platform and app Evernote integrates with Google Drive, Slack and more to save articles you want to come back later.
- And turn off all social media alerts. “Chances are that you are going on Twitter or Facebook at some point during the day anyway, so you’re going to see those notifications,” said Lee. “Is it really life and death to be alerted (by email) that somebody liked your post or left you a comment?”
- Minimize the work emails you send and receive, as well, by getting up and walking over to a colleague to ask her a question, making a quick call to clarify something, or communicating over Slack. “Does it really need to be done by email?” asked Lee.
- And set regular dates to give your inbox a checkup, the way you might schedule cooking for the week on Sunday afternoons. “Make it a habit. It’s like dusting; the dust always comes back, so dusting is something that you have to commit to keeping up with on a regular basis,” said Lee. “So you have to check in with your inbox again once a week or once a month to maintain it.”
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