Avoid mail overload

Let’s face it. Not everyone have a mailbox that can be held empty on a daily basis to get maximum productivity. Some of us have a mailbox that feeds out of chaos and to change it would be nothing more then to introduce overhead into an already working workflow. But if we are not to empty it, how are we going to handle the mailbox in a way we can also work with?

I receive about a hundred mails a day. Most of these are newsletters, notifications and such things which I can throw away as soon as I read them. Between all these mails of white noise hide a few mails though which I need to do something with or reply to. These mails must be handled in a way which make it possible for me to organize the workload so that I don’t miss anything I need to do. For me this get down to a very simple approach, labels.

I use Gmail as my inbox. I have multiple mail accounts from different providers but they are all being pulled into one master account which is my account at Gmail. There are two reasons for me doing this. First and foremost the spam handling in Gmail is awesome.

Handle your spam
Out of thousand spam mails in my inbox I would guess that one or two would get through and actually reach my eyes while the others are being pulled away into the spam folder and out of my sight. One in a while I look through it briefly just so that there is nothing there I want to read and was marked as spam even though it wasn’t. Very few times I do find anything of value in that folder.

Here comes the real power of Gmail in my workflow. The automatic labeling of mails work just as my brain want it to work and this make it possible for my mailbox to get organized even before I enter it. There are a few labels that are the masters of my inbox and these are Notifications, Newsletters and Personal. Notifications are mails which can be interesting but at the same time mails I can throw away without missing out on anything. Examples, Twitter new follower notification, Facebook tagged in photos, Friends checks in on networks I am part of.

Secondly we have Newsletters. These are mails with offerings and news which I have found interesting in the past. These can also be thrown without any real loss but is good to go though if I am on the lookout for a specific deal or interested in the articles I get sent to my accounts.

Last there is Personal. This is the category where I will go though every single mail and handle it as it need to be handled. Actions needed will be sent to Remember the Milk which I use for todo and replies will get written directly if there is time.

Naturally I use many more labels then these but with only these three I have a way of getting a quick glance of the state of my inbox. If there is a big number of mails and I have a short time to get through them I can delete all mails in Notifications and Newsletters and go directly for the Personal mails. If I have a bit more time to spare I can go though also the Newsletters and so on.

There you have it, my simple three label rule for inbox management. Do you use a similar technique or a different all alike? Share in comments or contact me!

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