How to Clear a Massively Crowded Inbox

In a few months I’m starting what I hope to be a yearlong adventure around the world. Because of this, I’m going to have far less time online than I currently have available. Therefore, I really need to streamline my operations in regards to internet activity.

Quite simply, before I leave, I have to make all my operations as simple as possible.

I need to de-clutter all online areas of my life so that when I do have the time to use them, I will be as efficient as possible.

I started this de-cluttering recently, and began with my email accounts. I actually have 5 accounts because of the different projects I’ve been involved in over the years. Having multiple accounts has actually been really useful for me but the downside now is that they each contain thousands of messages.

My reason for clearing this accounts before I leave was firstly to make sure I hadn’t missed any important emails and wouldn’t have to catch up to them later. Secondly, I receive a lot of irrelevant messages, and I need to be able to process these much faster.

I decided to clear my massive inboxes recently and set aside a whole day to do it. After-all, I did have 10,000 emails to process. Yet, within 2 hours, I had managed to process all of them. Today I want to share how, and hopefully share some tips you can use if you are in a similar situation.

Set Strict Guidelines
First of all, you must make it clear what you want to keep and what you want to get rid of. I don’t think it is a good idea to be lenient here. Instead, you should have strict guidelines for what deserves to sit in your inbox and what doesn’t. Some people prefer to archive their messages, but I opted for deleting most of them as I have no need for the majority. Just because you have ample storage doesn’t mean you should fill it with clutter.

Do you really need logs of your Facebook messages? Are reports from your previous job ever going to be needed? Will you ever think “wow, I’m glad I kept this email?” Set guidelines for what you need and what you don’t and then stick to them when you’re ‘tidying up.’

Unsubscribe from Email Lists
I have spent the last three years working online and subsequently I’m on the ‘list’ of many a marketer. After I’ve received the freebie for joining though, I rarely care about what they have to say. Whether you work online or not, there’s a good chance you’ve signed up to some email lists you no longer care about, but still receive updates from them.

The benefit to unsubscribing from these lists is not only that can you delete what you’ve already received, but it will stop new messages coming in thus removing the need to process them in the future. Instead of hitting the delete button on email lists you no longer care about, take a second to unsubscribe (there should be a link at the bottom of the email). In the long run, this will be worth it.

Turn Off Website Notifications
If you’re a member of Facebook, Twitter, online groups or even discussion boards, you’ll know how much clutter they can create in your inbox. In fact, in one account, I had over 3,000 emails from Facebook and Twitter combined.

I recommend taking the time to log into the sites you use and change your email notification settings. I no longer receive notifications for Facebook or other social media platforms and actually feel this helps my productivity as checking my email doesn’t tempt me to check the site. Do this on all online communities where you’re active and you’ll soon see the benefits.

Select All Conversations

If you use a Gmail account and you want to tidy things up, you’re in luck. As I’ve just stated, for social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, I literally had thousands of messages to process. I performed a search for ‘Facebook’ in Gmail and started hitting “Select All” and then “Delete” for every page that appeared.

The way Gmail is set-up however, you can only delete 20 emails at a time. As you can tell, it would take me forever to delete thousands of messages from the same source with this process. Thankfully, I noticed a “Select All Conversations for This Query” option and proceeded to use that. What would have taken me over an hour was now completed in seconds.

If your current email provider offers this then take advantage of it. Perform a search that you know will only show messages you want to remove, then select the option to delete all of those results instantly. That will greatly minimise the size of your inbox in seconds.

Search for ‘Password’ and ‘Registration’
While it’s probably not the best idea to save your online passwords and site registration details in your inbox, most of us do. And, when you’re trying to clear out an inbox which has thousands of emails in it, it is all too easily to accidentally remove important items.

Therefore, what I did first was perform search queries which I knew would probably show emails I didn’t want to lose. Once you’ve found them using queries lke “registered,” “password,” “registration,” “notification,” and so on, you can archive them straight away. This is just a nifty little idea to prevent you deleting important emails by mistake.

If you have your own tips for clearing out an inbox that is literally flooded with emails, I would love to hear them in the comments!

Written on 6/18/2009 by Glen Allsop. Glen writes on the subject of Personal Development at PluginID. His site’s main aim is to help people Plug into their Identity, be who they want to be and live the life they want to live. Photo Credit: chrismetcalf

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