This week, I finally conquered it. It’s down to 0.
Here are some strategies/principles/insights that I used. None of them are particularly ground-breaking, but perhaps they will be useful to you too:
- With a good search feature, folders/labels are often overrated and unnecessary. For the amount of time we spend labeling/foldering e-mails over the years, how often do these categorizations actually help us? This is especially true when our e-mail client (in my case, gmail) has exceptionally powerful searching options. I have not given up on labels completely and I’m not saying they are useless. Just don’t let it bog you down. Don’t let category indecision cause e-mails to linger in your inbox. Just archive them. If you can’t find them based on subject, recipient, date, or content, you may never be aided by the fact that they reside in a folder/label with some two thousand others.
- Use getpocket.com. It’s a way to store online articles to read later. They also have a nice text-to-speech option. This service will allow you to delete those myriads of e–mails which are basically just so-hey-here-is-a-neat-article-you-should-check-out. Often you do legitimately want to read the articles eventually, but don’t have time at the moment. This is a way to defer the reading of the article without having it clog your e-mail/inbox.
- Don’t use your inbox as a todo list. Delete/archive the e-mail, and then add the todo item into some other service.
- If you insist on working from your e-mail as though it is a todo list, then create a ‘someday’ escape hatch. What I mean is this: Make an “Eventually” folder/label. It can hold those e-mails waiting for a “slow day”. They are the sort of e-mails that would be nice to get to in the next year, but really could also slip through the cracks with no headache. Don’t use it for anything that has a deadline or will hurt you if it doesn’t get addressed soon, though!
- If you have a full inbox and are working on downsizing it, try not to just delete/archive one message. If you find an email that can be nuked, search for similar ones by subject/sender/etc. Chances are it isn’t a loner, and by finding its cousins, you can reduce your inbox by 5, 10, 15, or 100 rather than one at a time. With some creative searching, it’s amazing at how many e-mails you can eliminate at once!
- There are important account information e-mails that you need to keep in the event you lose a username or have other issues. However, the vast majority of registration confirmation and mailing list confirmation e-mails actually contain precious little useful information and can be archived with little thought.