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The War on Clutter – Email Inbox Clean Up

Every day we are faced with a never-ending influx of emails containing advertisements, newsletters, and other marketing material. The number of unread messages in your inbox can be daunting to say the least. In order to clean up our email clutter, it's important that we first identify what kind of messages each message represents. For example is this an email from family or friend? Is this an incoming work related communication? Is this a promotional email from an online store? Once you've identified what type of message the email belongs to take action by deleting/archiving accordingly. This will help keep your inbox more organized and ultimately reduce the amount of time spent managing your emails on a daily basis.

Email Inbox Zero

Let's talk about email inbox zero.  Emails can easily clutter your email inbox which may be a few pages long.  It just goes to show that everyone gets too much email these days!  Email Inbox Zero is a concept where you have a completely empty email inbox.  You aren't always going to get there, but it is something to strive for.  Now let's talk about some ways to declutter email and email clutter.  By following the email organization tips below, you can get your email inbox to zero!

Email Inbox Clean Up Tips

In this blog post, we're going to learn how to sort the emails you receive into folders and labels. We'll also talk about setting up rules so that our inbox is as organized as possible. So, let's get started.

Email Folders/Labels

Outlook/Hotmail refers to them as “folders,” while Gmail calls them “labels.” They serve the same purpose: helping you organize your emails. You can set up as many or few folders/labels, whichever works best for you. And if there are any rules that automatically designate where an email should go into one of these categories, they'll get sorted accordingly; alternatively, manual sorting is always possible too! I like how Outlook allows me to create a rule so my emails will be easy to find when needed–especially since it's just easier than doing all this by hand every time!

Setting up Folders/labels

If you mainly use Outlook/Hotmail, here's a step by step tutorial by Microsoft on how to set up folders. You can set up as many or as few as you need. I have folders for my son's school stuff, my online receipts, my blog correspondence, banking, insurance, etc. You get the idea. You don't want to make one for every store you shop at, because you're not decluttering that way, you're just changing the appearance of the clutter.

An email folder I like to use is called the “Action Folder”.  Put emails in your “Action Folder” that require action from you such as email newsletter subscriptions, email school newsletters, email bills to pay , email work-related tasks or email personal action items. Place any email that requires a response in your “Action Folder”.  As you complete the task or action for each one, move it to it's destination folder.

If you mainly use Gmail, you'll use labels instead of folders. You create them very similar to Outlook.

  1. On your computer, go to Gmail.
  2. On the left, scroll down, then click More.
  3. Click Create new label.
  4. Name your label.
  5. Click Create.

Creating Categories

In both clients, you can create categories to help you organize even more. Categories are great because they're color coded. You can have all of your receipts as one category color and registrations as another. Seeing the colors for the categories shows you exactly what each email is classified as without even having to read it.

In Gmail:

  1. On your computer, open Gmail.
  2. In the top right, click Settings Settings and then See all settings.
  3. Click the Inbox tab.
  4. In the ‘Inbox type' section, select Default. Note: To hide all tabs, select another inbox type.
  5. In the ‘Categories' section, tick the boxes of tabs that you want to see. Note: You can't make new tabs; you can only display or hide existing ones.
  6. Scroll to the bottom, then click Save Changes.

In Outlook:

  1. On your Outlook Home tab, navigate to the Tags section (it's the fifth section from the right) and click inbox clean up
  2. In the pop-up box, scroll down to the bottom of the list and click All Categories.
  3. A box labeled Color Categories appears, and you should click the box for New along the right side. In the Add New Category box, add a custom name for your Category by typing the text in the Name field.
  4. Choose a custom color from the Color drop-down menu.
  5. Add a shortcut key for your Category using the Shortcut Key drop down, if you want to use one. Leave that menu with the default value of (None) if you don't want to use a shortcut.
  6. You can use Outlook category keyboard shortcuts to quickly add color categories to messages in your inbox.
  7. Click OK to close the Add New Category box.
  8. Click OK again on the Color Categories box to save your new category.

Creating Filters/Rules to automatically sort emails

Saving time and staying organized is just one of the many perks that come with setting up filters in your email. You can set them up either directly or choose an existing filter to base yours off of which means you won't have to spend any extra time organizing messages by hand. Once it's done, all new incoming emails will automatically be stored according to these rules so go ahead and enjoy a clutter-free inbox!

The nice part about Gmail (or Outlook) is being able configure how exactly mail should be handled before it even arrives into your mailbox – this way everything stays neatly sorted without having to manually do anything yourself!

In Gmail:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the search box at the top, click the Down arrow Down arrow.
  3. Enter your search criteria. If you want to check that your search worked correctly, see what emails show up by clicking Search.
  4. At the bottom of the search window, click Create filter
  5. Choose what you’d like the filter to do.
  6. Click Create filter.

**Note: When you create a filter to forward messages, only new messages will be affected. ​In addition, when someone replies to a message that you've filtered, the reply will only be filtered if it meets the same search criteria. 

In Outlook:

The easiest way to organize your inbox is by creating a rule that moves an email from one sender or with certain words in the subject line, into another folder. You can create this rule directly from any email you've already received.

  1. Open Outlook.
  2. Right-click a message in your inbox or another email folder and select Rules.
  3. Select one of the options. Outlook automatically suggests creating a rule based on the sender and the recipients. To view more options, select Create Rule.
  4. In the Create Rule dialog box, select one or more of the first three checkboxes.
  5. In the Do the following section, if you want the rule to move a message to a folder, check the Move item to folder box, then select the folder from the Select Folder dialog that pops up, and then click OK.
  6. Click OK to save your rule.

**Note: If you want to run the rule on messages you've already received, check the box on the confirmation dialog that pops up and then click OK.

If you're a little more tech savvy, the Rules Wizard is an amazingly powerful tool and offers almost infinite customizability . You can set a variety of different options in order to find the perfect rule you need!

  1. Select File > Manage Rules & Alerts to open the Rules and Alerts dialog box.
  2. On the Email Rules tab, select New Rule.
  3. Select one of the templates from Step 1. To start from a blank rule, select Apply rule on messages I receive or Apply rule on messages I send.
  4. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description box, click on any underlined options to set them. For example, if you selected Flag messages from someone for follow-up in Step 1, click people or public group to select which senders' messages you want to flag, then click follow up at this time to select a flag and a follow up date.
  5. Click Next.

On page 2, you can add additional conditions to your rule. For example, you can select messages sent from a specific person that also have specific words in the subject or message body.

  1. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) box, any condition you set on the previous screen is checked. You can select multiple additional conditions by checking their checkboxes.
  2. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description box, click on any additional underlined conditions you just added. Then click Next.

On Page 3, you can select additional actions to take on the message. For example, you can flag messages for follow up and mark a message as high importance.

  1. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) box, any action you set on the first screen is checked. You can select multiple additional actions by checking their checkboxes.
  2. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description box, click on any additional underlined actions you just added. Then click Next.

On Page 4, you can add any exceptions to your rule. For example, you can check except if it is marked as importance to ensure that any messages marked with a specific importance level aren't flagged for follow up.

  1. In the Step 1: Select condition(s) box, select any exceptions to your rule by checking their checkboxes.
  2. In the Step 2: Edit the rule description box, click on any additional underlined exceptions you just added. Then click Next.

On the last page of the Rules Wizard, you enter a name for your rule.

  1. If you want to run this rule on messages you've already received, check Run this rule now on messages already in “Inbox.”
  2. By default, Turn on this rule is checked. You can uncheck this box if you don't want the rule to be turned on at this time.
  3. Click Finish to save and turn on your rule.

As you can see, the rules wizard is a little more involved, so if you're more comfortable with setting rules with the first method, I totally understand! That's the one I use.

A great feature in Gmail!

Remember all those newsletters you signed up for? No? Me neither! However, they fill up your inbox and you spend time deleting them instead of unsubscribing, don't you? I did, too, until I found this really neat feature in Gmail.

There's an Unsubscribe folder! Yep, they made us a folder just for unsubscribing. All you do is search, at the top of your Gmail, with the word ‘unsubscribe'. Then, move all of those emails (except the ones you really want to keep getting) to this folder. Gmail does the rest and unsubscribes you.

In Outlook, you can search for the word ‘unsubscribe' also. However, you'll need to go into each email, scroll to the bottom of it, click unsubscribe and follow the steps to do so on the window that opens.

You're well on your way to an organized inbox!

If you’ve been looking for a way to declutter your email inbox, then this blog post is for you. The War on Clutter has many fronts and we have some tips that will help get the job done! We recommend setting up folders or labels with filters or rules to keep messages out of your main inbox so they don’t clutter it any further. But before doing anything else, take a moment to think about what emails matter most in order to prioritize them first. And if there are items that need attention but can be saved until later (think newsletters), make sure those go into their own folder as well.

Tell me how you're doing with your War on clutter? Did you find this post helpful? What other questions do you have when it comes to email inbox clean up?

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