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Tackling My Inbox

High Straightenence by Tracy Benjamin

A weekly column celebrating the neat freak in all of us.

tackling

Last week on the podcast, Joy & I talked briefly about managing our email inboxes. I’m at a point where it’s getting out of control and I need to take ACTION. We received quite a few comments/emails  from our listeners with suggestions on how to manage email. It was SUPER helpful, so thank you!

In the next few weeks I plan to streamline  my inbox(es). I currently have 5 different email addresses- One hotmail, one gmail, some old one from years ago and two that belong to my website.  I use the ones associated with my website constantly and the other three I have for what I consider “junk” mail. The problem with the junkmail accounts is that they are FILLED with daily emails from newsletters I subscribed to A LONG TIME AGO. Real talk: My hotmail account has 20k emails and they’re all pure crap. I call that email the BLACK HOLE.  It doesn’t stress or overwhelm me because it’s not an address that I normally use. I just feel a tremendous amount of shame for letting it go and getting to that ridiculous number.

So I’m ready to power up and TACKLE.

MY OBJECTIVE:

-clean out my junk inboxes/unsubscribe to as many newsletters as possible (this may take awhile)

-create folders in my inbox and sort emails (one of our listeners suggested sorting emails into boxes based on ACTION). I like this idea because sometimes flagging something isn’t enough for me remember to take action. And sometimes I don’t need something until later so it would be helpful to have a folder for archiving. I hope to have the following FOLDERS:

INBOX: A place for sorting (ideally, this area should be cleared out CONSTANTLY)

ARCHIVE: A place for storing information I need to reference at a later date.

ACTION: Emails that require follow-up (once finished, they will either be trashed or moved to ARCHIVE)

RECEIPTS: I’ll put anything tax-related/blog related into this folder

I was contemplating merging all of my emails account into Gmail and having that as a hub for my email addresses. Do you do this? Is it worth it? I was thinking it would be a good option for someone like me who doesn’t always use the same computer to write/read emails.

I suspect this is going to take A LONG TIME, but I know that once I have a better way to manage this, email might not get out of hand. In the process I would like to work on managing my contact list. The amount of information I have scattered on different devices is frightening. I need to get it merges & centralized!

If you have any tips/tricks you’d like to share before I go FULL FORCE with the email purge, please let me know! I can’t wait to get my inbox down to ZERO!


Tracy Benjamin

Tracy Benjamin is obsessed with good food, great photography, and pretty things.


16 Comments

  • Emily March 13, 2013 at 4:33 am

    I forward all my accounts to gmail and I’d recommend it! Not having to check multiple accounts is great, and you can select which account you’re sending from (so the recipient sees it as coming from a different address, which matters to me sometimes). I also find that a lot of gmail features are really useful for organization! I like use color-coded flags to mark a few really important things and I set labels so that emails from particular senders are automatically categorized. Good luck!!


  • Lauren March 13, 2013 at 7:48 am

    This is one of my favorite subjects, so please forgive my long response!!

    I have not merged accts into gmail, but I know it can be done. I would ditch as many email address you can 1st and then start your migration. I adore gmail for its archive and labeling system.

    One of my favorite things about gmail is the filter feature. In gmail, your email address works with any number of . (dots) you choose to use. so you can be yourname@gmail or your.name@gmail, both are yours and it become an easy way to sort junk into an archieve folder. You can use one address for important stuff and one for junk and sale type stuff that comes in at an alarming rate these days. (side note, I have over 10K unread clothing sale emails in a clothing sale folder, that is not touching my inbox)

    As far as subscriptions (this is mostly for blog stuff I read) I unsubscribed and threw I everying worth of keeping into google reader, if there is an RSS feed i can use instead. In reader, I have everything grouped into subfolders in there, and I finf it very important to turn off the counts of unread stuff. Some sites update like every 5 mins (like Apartment Therapy) while other sites like personal blogs do not, so group how you see fit. I have a love it, like it, leave it folder system going on. I hit up my loves daily, the rest is when I feel like it.

    I really could go on and on on thsi stuff, so i will stop here! Hope this helps!

    ps – I totally am using your moleskine notebook system, hoping that I will finishing a notebook for the 1st time in my life.


    • Shauna March 14, 2013 at 11:54 am

      I totally love gmail for the reasons listed, and ditto for the Reader, although it’s sad they’re getting rid of Google Reader this summer :( I’m trying to figure out what to use instead. So far I’m having luck with FeedDemon, but TheOldReader might work out better – looks like they’re updating some stuff currently though.


      • Tara April 3, 2013 at 8:25 am

        I was just going to ask.. what are you going to use now that Reader is going the way of the wind? I am sooo sad to lose it, and agree that it organizes all that stuff beautifully!!


  • Lauren March 13, 2013 at 7:50 am

    sorry for all the typos, but I get excited for organiztion!


  • Liz Diaz (@elizabeth_anne3) March 13, 2013 at 10:11 am

    i have all of my accounts merged into gmail and love it, especially, like mentioned above, because you can choose within gmail what email address each email you send appears to come from to the recipient. the labels, flags, etc. are helpful as well. but also, i just learned how to use the filtering system so that all of the semi-junk email that every once in a while might come in handy (a coupon code or promo offer when i actually do want to purchase something) gets stashed away in the archives with proper labeling. this way i don’t need to open it and file it myself, or all of a sudden want to buy something because of great advertising, but then if I do want to see if there are any specials i can just search my mail using key words, or the name of the store/company.


  • Laura W. March 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Gmail has many great features so I highly recommend centralizing all your accounts there. Once you do, take advantage of the filter feature. I filter all my newsletter emails. For ones I want to read when they come (such as the movie theater schedule for the upcoming week), I set the filter to archive them, label them with “newsletter”, and leave them unread. For ones I want to receive but don’t want to read (such as store promotions), I set the filter to archive them, label them with “shopping”, and mark them as read. Then when I do online shopping I can go in and see if there are any recent emails with special codes for discounts or free shipping. Occasionally I dump the whole folder in the trash although it’s not necessary with Gmail’s enormous capacity.


  • Mary-Lynn March 13, 2013 at 3:07 pm

    Email management is my superpower. First, yes, my god get everything going into Gmail. Second, filter as others have said. Gmails filters are really good and probably 80% of the time you spend on this clean up should be devoted to setting up your filters. Third, the advice to label things with action labels is a good one. I use three main categories: @ labels, > labels and the star system/inbox for managing the things that make it into my actual inbox.

    @ labels are when I’m waiting for someone else to do something that might take a little bit of time but I ultimately need to still worry about (I’m a Product Manager *though not for Gmail despite the shilling to come * so I have to wait on LOTS of people to do LOTS of things). The labels are @name or @projectname (so @Tracy would be for you, if we worked together). I label something from my inbox and then “Archive” it so it goes away. I set Gmail to show the labels in my sidebar and they show at the top. So if I’m going into a meeting with @Tracy, I’d click on that label and boom, there’s my list of things you still haven’t done why are you so slow oh my god. (Note: once a project is done, I make folder with just ProjectName and archive everyhting there and kill the @ label).

    > labels are my action tags, usually related to broad categories like >update or >remindName – so actions I have to take at some point but don’t want to think about right now.

    Then the inbox. My inbox contains anything I’m working on or need to remember to do right now. It’s for Active Things. And it’s usually less than 15 messages long so I can visually scan. I might tag something with one of the other labels but still leave it in my inbox if it’s my Current Responsibility.

    Also, Gmail has a plug-in called Boomerang which can put a message back into your inbox after X time if no one has replied. I’ve been experimenting with that for mostly client reminder sorts of things.

    Finally, the best thing about Gmail is what I call “archive that shit and find it later”. Once I’ve done something, I just archive it. Despite using all those labels (and it was HARD to wean off of obsessive use of folders) most things I just hit “archive” and then if I need it I search for it and find it later.


  • Jane M March 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    1 of my resolutions was to unsubscribe to many emails. I find that task to take sooooo much time! These sites make it so very difficult! Now I’m seeing emails start up again after a 2 month reprieve. Seems unfair. I get nervous when I’ve not been on my computer for a while and see a crazy number of new mail. Too bad my iPhone doesn’t have that Blackberry feature. Where I could delete the junk mail off both my phone and computer at the same time. Could there be an App for that???


  • Lori March 14, 2013 at 5:55 am

    One thing that really helped me in Gmail was choosing the option under an individual label to only show if there is an unread message. This helps so not all my labels are showing up all the time making my view of my email feel less cluttered.


  • Celia March 14, 2013 at 10:41 am

    I LOVE Gmail for organizing – set up filters! I’m trying out an app called Brewster for consolidating my contacts, and it’s great. I see all my contacts from Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter in one place and can merge contacts that have different names, but are the same person (like someone with accounts under maiden and married names). Super easy to use. I also unsubscribed from a million lists and my inbox is so much happier and so am I. Good luck in your inbox adventure! I’m still working on mine, but it is totally worth it.


  • I love lists, Friday – Shutterbean March 15, 2013 at 1:35 am

    [...] I’m starting to merge my Gmail account!!! If you want to tackle your inbox too, I’ll let you in on my process. Here’s part one! [...]


  • missredsage March 17, 2013 at 3:26 pm

    I think gMail is the right way to go if you are looking for use on lots of different computers, but if it’s only a few standard computers, then I use icloud and that way I don’t have to use ANY other service for managing my pile of everything to do with my life. I use four different addresses with my icloud depending on where the messages are coming from and they come to my phone and three laptops so I can log in from anywhere in my life and respond seamlessly. It also helps that I keep all my contacts and passwords for everything together… but again, if you need to use from a non-icloud setup computer, it becomes a lot more difficult!


  • Emily March 21, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I tried using the Mailbox app for my email which made me go through and archive or delete most all of my emails… I’m still getting used to it and have 50 or so emails lurking in there now that I’m still dealing with, but I’ve liked it so far! You can merge your emails on there, and choose which account you send from when you write an email. It reflects the changes in your gmail inbox too, which is nice.
    Good luck!!


  • Terri March 23, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I am so guilty have having too many email addresses and have been slowly working through organizing my main ones.

    I have my work email address linked with my gmail so it makes it extremely easy to respond to all emails. The only downfall is that my work account inbox gets inundated with all the emails because they don’t get deleted or archived in that account. But if you at least archive them in gmail, you can basically delete it all periodically.

    I’m personally a subfolder fanatic, but if you don’t want to spend the time creating and organizing a million folders, gmail’s search feature is a life saver!

    Best of luck to you and I adore your podcast with Joy and always look forward to this feature!

    xoxo
    T