Reducing Inbox clutter

If you’re like me, which you’re probably not, you have multiple email addresses and subscribe to newsletters, mailing lists, etc. If you’re also into reading blogs, then you’ve got the ‘blog Inbox’ to clear as well. And, more good stuff keeps coming up every day.

One solution is to retire to the Himalayas (or whatever mountains exist in your part of the world) and meditate on the meaning of life.

If you’re not so much into meditation, here are a few tips:

1) Unsubscribe: No, not to everything but to the ones you don’t really read anymore. This is not a new idea. Michael Hyatt writes in Unsubscribe Me:

I am now scrolling to the end of each message and clicking on the “Unsubscribe” link. Sure it takes a few more seconds, but it is far more satisfying than merely hitting the delete key. Hopefully, I will only have to do this once and thereby incrementally reduce the clutter in my life.

You’ll find that there are newsletters, blogs, mailing lists, that you once read but don’t read anymore and you’re wasting time deleting messages. Don’t. Just unsubscribe. When you need it later, you’ll find it again. Or you won’t. What you will do is reduce clutter.

2) Go into Digest mode: Most mailing lists have a Digest mode option, where they let you receive all the messages for the day in one big email. It isn’t the best option in some ways (when members don’t clip their emails) but it puts all the emails in one place, so you read one email instead of having to navigate fifty.

3) Go online to read blogs: I was reading my blogs using Thunderbird but I realised that the whole downloading your ‘blogs’ and then going through each one was getting tedious. I tried a few online RSS readers or news aggregators and settled into using Bloglines. (Read the Bloglines FAQ for more information.) I’ve found that I read more blogs now and more efficiently too. There are tons of readers like NetNewsWire, Rojo, MyYahoo, NewsGator, that you can also try–that’s a topic for another post.

4) Use the GTD two-minute rule: If you can read an email or reply to an email within two minutes, don’t put it off, do it right then. You’ll feel better about getting it done. If it’s going to take longer, you might want to figure out what the ‘next action’ is, and schedule accordingly. GTD is a huge topic, so I’ll just point you to 43 Folders for more information on GTD and its applications. (Merlin Mann also has a nice article titled Five fast email productivity tips)

5) Organize: This may seem like a no-brainer but I’ve seen people who store all their emails in their Inbox, or use organising techniques that make finding a needle in a haystack look easy. Simply organising emails into folders will help you reduce clutter. Be careful though not to use folders for procrastination, i.e. to keep your Inbox empty without ‘acting on’ your emails.

These tips worked for me, they may work for you, or they may not. Try them though.