In my experience, I have found that there are three different types of people:

  • Zero Inbox People. People who clean out their inbox as often as a germaphobe​ washes his or her hands.
  • Zero Notifications People. People not bothered with emails in their inbox, but who must read every email when it comes in.
  • The Insane. All others.

Of course, I am kidding, and I know that email habits vary widely, from zero inbox to those -- including a good friend -- who somehow function with an email notification app that reads "25,000."

Regardless of the type of person you are, the email habits you use to tame your inbox are an important consideration for productivity. Not convinced? Consider that according to McKinsey and Company we spend about 28 percent of our work week on email, and according to a study by the Radicati Group, we receive 124 work emails every day.

That is just email related to work.

So email is a real part of our work day, and I would argue if used effectively can make you much more efficient at your work. And while everyone is different, with differing levels of email needs, here are a few email tips you can try as you start the new year.

Purge

Last new year, I tried something I thought I would never try -- I purged all old emails that were residing in my inbox waiting to be read or acted on. And guess what -- I survived all of last year without any major issues or injuries.

The truth is that those newsletters you have been saving for weeks are old and obsolete anyway. Those emails waiting on your reply from over a month ago? Well, if you haven't replied yet, they really did not need your reply.

This is a frightening thought for most people, I get it, and if you are the type of person who has not even purged your deleted email in years, this is going to be especially tough. Do not fret it, however, as we have come to understand over the past few years of politics, emails never really go away.

And, if this idea absolutely causes you anxiety, then consider creating an "Archive" or "Old Email" folder, then moving everything here for safekeeping. Revisit the folder next new year and see if you really needed them -- my guess is not.

Filter, Filter, Filter

One feature I have used and found particularly useful this past year is email filters, which are available on every email service. I use Gmail, which is particularly effective at setting up email filters, and I have a host of different folders that capture emails from specific sources I like to read but are not necessarily urgent.

Here are two quick videos for the two most used email services.

Gmail

Outlook

And, if you are simply just too lazy to go through the hassle, consider a service like Sanebox, which works with any emails service. The service uses an algorithm, based on a few trained email, so filter incoming email. It also has a number of folders you can create that generate email reminders.

Of course, there are many email services available, and you should consider the benefits and costs of each before choosing.

Block Time

Lastly, once you have a clean inbox and filters set up, you can schedule time to review each of the folders as needed. Newsletters can be read after work or on the weekends, and emails from your boss (or other important people) can be read right away.

For the most part, even if it is your resolution for the new year to stop checking email as much, the reality for most -- including me -- is that it is a tool we use in order to be more productive, so limiting its use is not really an option.

With old emails stashed away and the distractions of unimportant emails removed, however, we can go into the new year with a fresh, new email start.

What do you think? What other ways are you more effectively managing email? Please share your tips with me on Twitter.

Published on: Dec 30, 2018
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