If you let your email inbox runneth over, you run the risk of missing important news, blowing deadlines and neglecting friends or colleagues. But really, the largest side effect of a congested inbox is the overwhelming feeling of dread and discouragement that comes with hundreds of messages waiting for you. Herewith, some expert tips on combatting a clogged inbox.
Try to leave each day with an empty inbox. It sounds a tad extreme, but attaining the state known in tech circles as "inbox zero" is one of the most liberating feelings a modern man can experience. The idea, introduced in a now internet famous video by productivity guru Merlin Mann, is to treat each email as a call to action. Your inbox shouldn't be used as storage or as a calendar. An unnecessary email just fogs up your focus and prevents you from paying attention to the ones you need to see. If it's junk or if it simply isn't worth keeping around for some legitimate reason, delete it then and there. You've got to be ruthless.
According to organizational expert David Allen of Getting Things Done fame, "Anything you can deal with in less than two minutes—if you're ever going to do it at all—should be done the first time you see it," he says. "It takes longer to read it, close it, open it, and read it again than it would to finish it the first time it appears." Then simply file or delete the email and move on. If a message requires more thought or action than two minutes, make a plan (add it to your to-do list, create a calendar reminder, etc.) and then file the email into the appropriate folder. When you need the email again, you'll know just where to find it instead of having to scan your inbox.
Don't put up with a spam-stuffed inbox. Mark it appropriately as junk or spam (which should redirect those in the future) then delete it. Instead of simply trashing uninteresting newsletters, alerts and marketing emails from brands and stores that you never bother reading, take ten seconds and click the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of the email. That one person who's always forwarding you things you don't want to see? Set up a special filter for them and have it sent to a specific folder. Like, perhaps, the trash.