Inbox: ZERO. It’s an elusive number, but it’s possible to get your unread messages all the way down to 0. I see inbox 0 every other day, and even if I’m really busy, the most I’ll let my unread messages get to is 50. At least once a week, I’ll take a few minutes to cut these down to size.
I’ve read a lot of articles about email productivity, but none really use what I’m about to tell you. The methods in this post are free, practical, and really easy to use. Having a clear mind is so important to being productive and just general well-being, and a clean inbox is a step towards that. I’m here to help you tame the beast because it’s so amazing to declutter your digital life, and get the clean inbox that you deserve!
If this sounds exciting to you, read on for 3 really easy ways to give your inbox a new lease on life!
1. Unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters
You’d be surprised at how much these clog up your inbox, so the first thing you want to do is plug the hole and stop more from flooding in!
Head on to Unroll.me - it’s a free service that will pull up all of your subscriptions so you can tick them off and unsubscribe, all in one go.
If you want to do this manually, Gmail has made this easier. Instead of searching for a tiny ‘unsubscribe’ button, there is now one right next to the sender’s email address. If it’s not there, click on the arrow next to your own email address (this should just read ‘me’) in the header of the email, and there will be an ‘unsubscribe’ button. It’s a statutory requirement to have an ‘unsubscribe’ button, so use your right! (And here using the word ‘statutory’ reminds me of that law essay I need to write, hmm.)
2. Delete unwanted emails
I don’t know about you, but I really don’t need an email about a sale that ended last week sitting in my inbox.
Think of it this way: if a shoe brand emails you once a week about a sale, you’ll have 52 emails from them a year. Considering that you probably won’t need to read about sales that have already ended or new releases from last year, that’s at least 52 emails you can get rid of in one fell swoop per newsletter sender.
Find one of these emails, and copy the email address it’s coming from. Paste into the search bar so that all of the past emails from them pop up. Select all, delete, and watch your number of unread emails drop!
It’s such a satisfying feeling and is probably one of my favourite ways to do a quick email declutter!
3. Set up labels
I can’t tell you how much this has changed my life and made my emails so, so much easier to manage. I have 14 filters in my personal email address, and the one I make use of most is my ‘Newsletters’ filter (I think Gmail’s Social and Updates tabs are just really weird… though if you successfully use them, do let me know in the comments!).
To set up a new filter, go to your settings in Gmail, then Labels, and set up a few. I’d recommend starting with Newsletters, as that’s usually the bulk of emails. A few others I use are Personal, Ebay, and Paypal. For my business email, I have Orders, Resources, and Marketing to name a few. Basically, if you’re getting a lot of one type of email that you’d like to be able to sort through together, make a label for it.
Pro tip: you can assign different colours to labels! My favourite colour is pink, so all my Personal emails get a pink label. :)
4. Combine labels with filters
Now, it’s time for the exciting part with filters. By using this, you can set it so that every single email from Brand X gets marked as a Newsletter automatically, and you can even make sure it doesn’t even land in your main inbox or is marked as read immediately.
The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to filter emails as they come, or to select from existing messages. Whenever I get a new newsletter that hasn’t been labelled, I click ‘more’, then ‘filter messages like this’, which means that all emails from this sender will receive the instructions you’re about to give. Go ahead and click ‘create a new filter’.
This next page is where the exciting stuff happens. You can choose to archive all emails from this sender immediately (‘skip the inbox’), but the most important part is to apply a label. Make sure you also apply this filter to all previous emails from this sender with the little tick at the bottom.
Once you’re happy and have sent a nice number of emails into your Newsletter label, your number of unread emails should be on the decline. If you want a completely fresh start, you can always hit select all, and delete all these newsletters. Either way, they will no longer clutter your inbox.
You're all set!
Having a clean inbox is an ongoing process, and if you’ve reached the end of this article, congratulations! You’ve taken a big step. By implementing the methods I use, you can make your inbox automate and clean itself up