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Help! My email notification bubble just says “!”

Many of you have been in this position before. Too many emails, too little time. Unfortunately, emails are still a major form of communication, both in personal and professional matters. In 2017, the Radicati Group estimated that there are 3.7 billion email users in the world, and 269 BILLION emails sent per day! That’s a lot of communicating.

So, if you are still watching that number tick up and up on your email icon, waiting to see how high it can get, or you are feverishly using the search box to find something you THINK someone sent you last year, or you are another form of email neglecter, let’s go over some ways to refresh and organize your emails.

  1. Remember low-tech for high-tech solutions. OK, this won’t work with every tech problem. Computers and software are becoming so complex, it’s hard to find a real world example to help us understand and learn all of it. But, emails are still just letters, sent from one person or organization to another person or organization. Yes, we get a lot of them (269 billion!) every day, and no, they can’t fit into a file folder in your desk (unless you are like my grandma and you print them out). But, most email providers include awesome organizational tools, like folders, that can keep your emails nice and orderly. Without the paper cuts. I will say that some of these filing tools are not that easy to learn or use. Even Gmail has a ways to go to make them work better, but once learned, it will save you from losing and forgetting important emails.
  2. Don’t delete, archive. Some people might disagree with me on this one. I literally delete an email once a month or so. I should probably delete more, since there are some emails that you definitely don’t need. But, even saving that marketing email from that company you didn’t need anything from in 2015 might come in handy. Maybe it makes an impression and you think, a year later, “what was that company again? I think I need that doodad now.” With luck, you can search and find it if you didn’t delete it right off the bat. Archiving is a way to keep something without losing it completely, as you would with deleting.
  3. Use Advanced Search to it’s fullest. Most of you probably already use this, but sometimes just dropping a word or two into the search box doesn’t give your little email search engine enough information. I don’t know how many times I have typed my sender’s name in and Gmail returned thousands of emails, some without any apparent sign of the name I searched for. Get a little more specific with advanced search and get higher quality results.
  4. Make a goal and stick to it. Every day, before you start sliding through your Netflix “continue watching” feed, make it a priority to clean your inbox. Whether it’s archiving, foldering, or deleting emails, don’t let that inbox get cluttered up. I know someone who had to just abandon an email address (which was her first and last name, no numbers, no underscores, and @gmail. The BEST gmail address I have ever seen.) It got so full that she just didn’t want to deal with it. I am sure she could have figured out how to bulk delete or something, but her inbox had over 15k emails in it. Don’t let this happen to you.
  5. Unsubscribe and Block. I have to say that I was shamefully unaware that you could do this on pretty much every marketing email until, well, it’s too shameful to say how recently a coworker showed this to me. Since I now send marketing emails for a living, I have learned that email programs like MailChimp have strict rules on including an unsubscribe option at the bottom of every communication. Because of the CAN-SPAM Act, all marketing emails have to display a method of unsubscribing for the receiver. MailChimp, ActiveCampaign and SendGrid won’t let you send without an actual link or button installed. So, look for that unsubscribe option and USE IT. Your inbox will thank you. But, remember that, some companies that send you emails might be useful to you later. Take a note, keep the emails, bookmark their site, do something to help you revisit the product or service later, when you need it.

There are some fancy and slightly complicated things you can do to get even more organized. But, I have found that the really complex organizational methods don’t stick for me. The simpler, the better. When an organizational tool makes my life even more complicated, it’s got to go.

Try some of these tips and see how awesome email still is.

published on Thursday, September 28th, 2017