My Inbox Is Always Going to Be Messy. Here’s How I’m St…



Emails are the worst. With every click we make online, an autogenerated email is sent to us to acknowledge that. From social media notifications, e-commerce transactions to newsletter sign-ups. Why is this information duplicated in the confirmatory emails that just fill up our inboxes?

“A staggering 2.4 million emails are sent every second”

I decided to binge-watch Tidying Up with Marie Kondo early this month and it brought dread. I have over 6K unread emails in their various folders and me watching this show didn’t help. The Netflix hit series revolves around Marie Kondo who goes around cleaning up messy American condos. If you can’t recall who she is, Marie is a Japanese lifestyle guru organization consultant who advocates for tidying up. “Tidying is not just about cleaning, it is creating a space that sparks joy and a means to realize your ideal life,” she adds during one of the episodes of her show. I organize a lot of my stuff and it wasn’t until I watched the episode where Marie sorts someone’s clothing into rainbows colours that I realized I’m not that neat with my emails. I went to my inbox to see what I could do about the over 2K emails waiting to be read. Deleting them was exhaustive so instead, I adopted these habits that have so far served me well.

I changed my outlook on inbox, pun not intended.

  • If an email didn’t require any action on my behalf, I straight up archived it.
  • Following the popular 2 minute rule where if the email needed a quick reply that I can jot down in less than 2 minutes, I do it right away and then archive it.
  • If the email requires my attention but isn’t time sensitive, I snooze it. Gmail’s Inbox app had this subtle feature and since it is being discontinued, I had to source other alternative Gmail add-ons like Sortd which Trello-lizes your inbox by turning your emails to card-based tasks in a board. There’s also the snooze function and if you want to return to your normal Gmail interface, there’s a button for that. Gmelius has a feature that allows you to schedule drafts for later too among other features including one that allows you to mass unsubscribe from any list-generated email with a one-click link. Others to try out include Snooze Email or Convert Google Docs to Gmail Drafts, Gmail Notes and Simple Gmail Notes.

I stopped overlooking on clarity and brevity

I started replying to emails as if they were texts but in a formal way by starting with appropriate pleasantries and making the message brief with fewer sentences. This is a good guideline even for important emails that need more sentences such as project proposals. This method will make your outgoing emails more efficient as they’re more concise and straight to the point and will strike a quick reply to you. In short, write the email you’d also want to receive.

I started sending fewer emails

Millennials are obsessed with reaching the Inbox Zero and as new emails get delivered so is our urge to quickly reply to them and you get sucked in this vortex of constant back and forth emailing. So I started to call more to get clarifications even quicker and sometimes setting offline meetings to provide additional context on why there’s friction and resolve things much faster that way. Sending out less email leads to you getting less email while still getting work done at the same time. If calling is hectic, workplace chat apps like Slack or Telegram can also do the magic.

I Started using templates

Templates will aid you when you’re writing those repetitive emails. Gmail has its Canned Responses feature which you can find in the Labs section when you browse its settings. This will come in handy and future you will be thankful.

I let it go

The movie Frozen wasn’t so bad, it had a lot of takeaways – this one included. You’ve been told to filter your inbox, use folders and such but did you know the Search feature of most email clients is heaven-sent. Even after creating folders, emails getting in your inbox will always find a way to jumble themselves and the best thing to do is to let it go. This means if you need something, you’ll have to search if it’s so important. Let Google’s tech do the work. Here are some tips.

I turned off desktop and mobile email notifications except for some

Dealing with emails everytime the notification comes up is such a productivity killer since you have to switch from what you were doing before to reply to the email at hand. I created custom notifications so that I don’t miss urgent emails. Here’s how to create them for yourself for both Gmail or Inbox.

“We like the clarity of an empty inbox, but we don’t like the daily time commitment,” ex-googlers and recovering email addicts Knapp and Zeratsky write in their book, “Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day. ”

Does my messy inbox spark joy? The answer is yes.

Humans are the source of all this mess and emails have made it worse. My main takeaway is that things don’t necessarily have to inspire joy within us for us to keep them and as an email hoarder, utility isn’t always the same thing as pleasure. I gave up on the elusive pursuit of Inbox Zero and embraced my chaotic inbox which has me regain my sanity in a weird way – it turns out being bad at email on purpose is ironically actually being good at email.

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