We've all been there. You return from vacation or a holiday and what do you find - hundreds of unread emails! It's tough to sift out the relevant emails from the spam. And you might miss an important work emails from your employees, co-workers, or clients. So, what to do?
Here are some tips on how to cut out the spam, irrelevant emails, and other detritus clogging up your inbox. A lot of this junk comes from years of giving out your email address when you sign up for accounts and services, ranging from your email address being sold, to mailing lists you once signed up for but are no longer interested in now.
Try these tips for a few weeks and see how your inbox looks then.
- First, start unsubscribing. Look for the unsubscribe link or button on any repeating emails that you don’t want to be on. Multiple emails every day from that vendor that sold you software years ago? Unsubscribe. Never actually read that newsletter you signed up for? Unsubscribe. (Yes, even from our eNewsletter if you don't find our information useful!)
- No unsubscribe button? Block! If you’re on somebody’s mailing list or they’re sending you marketing emails, they’re required by law to provide an unsubscribe button (per CAN-SPAM). If there isn’t one, report emails as spam and block the address.
- Cut out the repeat offenders. If you get put back on lists you unsubscribed from or you are not removed within a reasonable time limit as requested – report those emails as spam too. U.S. businesses are required to provide an opt-out method and remove you from their list within 10 business days, per CAN-SPAM. The sender’s policy says you’ll be removed within 30 days? Well, tough luck. That’s an unreasonably long time.
- Stop spam senders ASAP. If spam emails make it past your spam filter and inbox filter… you guessed it, report it as spam or mark it as junk. In Microsoft Outlook you can do this quickly by right-clicking on the email and going to Junk > Block Sender.
Other email clients and providers like Gmail also provide similar ways to mark unwanted email as spam or junk, often with the click of a single button.
- Use an inline email anti-spam/anti-virus product like Mimecast which we highly recommend. While not free, it provides some of the best email management tools available, plus it includes email continuity should your email server ever fail (you can still receive your email) and a very slick way to manage and send very large attachments.
If your business’s spam filter gives you easy controls at the bottom of each email, block the sender or the domain.
- Reduce notifications. Are you getting regular notifications from online services, platforms, communication groups, etc.? Maybe you’re in LinkedIn Groups and getting daily digest emails of what’s posted in the group. If you’re not reading them, turn off these notifications or switch them to less frequent emails like weekly digests.
- Highlight the important emails. And finally: once you’re cutting out the unwanted, unhelpful emails, use your inbox tools to mark important emails that you need to act on or follow-up on. In Outlook you can flag and add reminders to emails – great visual cues in your inbox of which emails are important. In Gmail you can star emails and mark them as priority. Need to actually separate large amounts of email into folders that are easier to handle? Use inbox rules to send important emails to special folders.
The important thing is you don’t have to spend a lot of time on unsubscribing or junking emails. These two tools should be quick and obvious to find and use on every piece of email you get from outside sources. And if you do these two actions frequently enough, muscle memory will take over.
In the future, keep a tight grip on what emails and notifications you want when you opt-in to online services or make online accounts. This will help keep your inbox from flooding again