Emails are a great tool of communication. Though, like most other things in this day and age, it very easily becomes a source of noise, and chaos. Too much attempting to grab our attention at once. It doesn’t help that nearly everything that we do online, shopping, using social media, researching, learning new things, all lead to us delivering our email address over in some fashion. It all became too much for me. I needed to quiet the noise.
Thus came my goal of an empty inbox.
Impossible you say? It’s not. In an email inbox that I have had for well over 10 years, I get less than 5 unwanted emails per day. That’s all. And yes, I use this email address for logins, shopping, and all manner of daily maneuvers all over the internet. Follow the steps below to achieve the art of the empty inbox for yourself.
Step 1: Turn Off Notifications
There is a psychological element to the notifications. The sound, the vibration, the little number bubble, they all create urgency signals in your brain to tell you that you HAVE to look at this now. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. No one should be sending anything urgent via email! Text, group messages and phone calls are urgent. Emails are NOT.
Step 2: Set Times to Check Emails
I personally check email 4 times per day. Early morning, before lunch, late afternoon and before bed. That’s it. There was a time when I would check the phone every time it vibrated. It wasn’t good for my mental health. So instead, I switched off my notifications and created myself a consistent schedule for checking messages.
Step 3: Set People’s Expectations
People do still rely on email as a source of communication so it is important to let the important people know that you are switching to a new system for checking and responding to messages. I use the term “important people” loosely as this can be anyone from family members to coworkers. Anyone who would expect a response in a timely manner. In the process of letting them know about your new email schedule, you will want to provide them with an alternative method of communication that will provide them with a quicker response. Text, group message or phone call are all good options for this.
Step 4: Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, unsubscribe
I don’t know a single person who does not get what they consider to be too many emails. Even as a business owner, who in fact sends her own emails out for marketing purposes I am going to say this, you ARE allowed to unsubscribe. If an email no longer serves you, or if the content comes too frequently for your personal tastes, unsubscribe. Seriously.
I know it feels overwhelming to get rid of them. There were times I looked at my inbox and said to myself “maybe I will just start a new email”. For me to consider just giving up and scratching an inbox that I had had for over 10 years shows you just how bad it had gotten. I was getting hundreds of emails from stores, companies, blogs and news sources daily. It was bonkers!
It doesn’t take a large time commitment to clear them out. What you need to do is each time that you go in your inbox to check your new emails, go email by email and before you delete, unsubscribe. For the first few days, checking your email will be a slightly longer process than normal. If you give it about 10 minutes each time though, you will begin to see results in just a few short days.
Step 5: Create a Follow Up System
Once you are only getting the actual emails that you want to be receiving, it’s time to create a follow up system for what remains.
I personally like a folder. Three folders to be specific.
One for things to be completed. The second for things I am saving for reference. The third for things that have been completed and I need to save the record. That’s it.
Everything else goes in the trash.
This is a system I run through twice a year now. Unfortunately, the world we live in means constant online purchases, thus resetting the cycle all over again. After the first batch of unsubscribing, the process gets easier and easier though. Almost automatic when a new company’s marketing emails start to flood your inbox.