how many emails are currently in your inbox?

The number itself isn’t really important. The important thing is how you feel about that number, and whether it’s getting in the way of you reaching your goals or not.

If you have 1,732 emails in your inbox and you’re happy with that, carry on! If, however, those emails are creating stress (which is not so healthy) in your life, read on.

There was a time when I had hundreds of unread emails in my inbox. Emails I told myself I would get to “later”. In my case, later rarely came. What usually happened was a mass deletion of emails that were not urgent or important, and thus my inbox would get under control for another few days.

One day, I decided enough was enough and it was time to do something about it. A few of my friends had told me about a free service called unroll.me which they LOVED, and I figured, hey, why not, let me give it a try, too.

What is unroll.me, you may be asking? In short, it’s a free service for Gmail that takes all incoming emails from email addresses you specify, and lumps them into one folder in your email account. Then, at a set time each day, it sends you ONE email with all the emails you’ve gotten that day in digest format.

Sounds good, right?

Well, here’s what happened to me when I started using unroll.me.

I STOPPED READING THOSE EMAILS.

Yup.

At least my inbox was more or less under control.

…but surely there were some emails there I wanted to read and now didn’t see easily because they were cluttered among those I stopped caring for.

I decided right then and there that I needed a different solution: the DIY unroll.me. Also known as: declutter and organize.

The first thing I did was get rid of unroll.me. Then the real work started.

1) I took a look at the types of emails that were in my inbox, and I started creating folders for those types.
For example, I’m in a bunch of yahoo groups, and read them all just as infrequently as the next (except for my community’s local group and the group for the ladies in my Break Free From Stress Eating), so I created a folder called “yahoo groups”.

2) I created a filter for those emails.
The example I’ll use here is Har Nof groups. I love Har Nof dearly and lived there for many years, and nowadays rarely read those emails unless I’m looking for something specific. I put the email address harnof@yahoogroups.com in the search bar of my Gmail account, clicked the down arrow at the right of the search box, and clicked “create filter with this search”. I filtered those emails to: a) skip my inbox, b) be marked as read, c) apply the label called “yahoo groups”, and d) apply this filter to the other conversations that match this search.

I repeated these two simple steps for all the emails that I wanted to organize, with slight variations for each one. For example, there are some emails I get that I want to remain “unread” until I read it, so I skipped step 2b for those.

Now I was left with all the emails I either was no longer interested in or didn’t have a specific filter for them.

The ones I was no longer interested in I opened up and clicked the unsubscribe link INSIDE. If you just mark an email as spam, you’re flagging the list as a spam list, and that could shut down someone’s list. It’s one thing if you don’t want to hear from them anymore…but do you really want to shut them down? (Here’s the cue for you to unsubscribe from my emails if you don’t want them anymore. It’s okay. Really. No hard feelings.)

So there you have it!

This method makes it really easy for me to keep my inbox clean and manageable. That means that when I sit down to work, I can clearly see which emails require my attention and which ones can wait for later. When I want to take a break from work, I can open any of the folders I’ve created with different topics and read the latest.

Today my inbox has 6 items in it, with 6 very specific tasks I want to take care of.

Now I’d love to hear from you!

What does your inbox look like? How do you organize your emails? I could geek out on organization and planning systems for hours, so please share what works for you in the comments!

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