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Day 7

Regain Your Sanity, Take Control of Your Email Inbox

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Email... the neverending story. A constant drip of requests all hours of the day.

The average office worker receives a whopping 121 emails per day. Imagine receiving 121 letters piled up on your doorstep. You’d struggle to open the door.

In 2017 the French Government strengthened workers rights to avoid checking work email out-of-hours in an attempt to curb ‘info-obesity’. A wise move.

Even the most organised inbox occasionally goes astray. In fact, maybe your inbox is looking a little wild right now? Have you noticed that during the festive period retailers try to grab our attention and wallets?

Here are our strategies and tactics for regaining your inbox sanity.

Strategies

We recommend a two step approach to take control of your inbox. First, reduce the volume of email you receive, and second, adopt tactics to deal with your smaller inbox.

Reduce your email volume

Avoid signing up in the first place

Be aware that every time you pass over your email address you’re likely to receive email communication in the future. This may be obvious when you’re signing up to a newsletter for example; but it’s less obvious when you sign up for a website account, sign up to use free Wifi, or complete an offline survey in the street. Stay frosty.

Stop sending email

Email leads to more email. Email is usually a conversation between 2 or more people, sending one email will likely result in a response. Before clicking the ‘Send’ button consider if there is another way to get the results you are looking for.

Unsubscribe

A great habit to adopt is recognising unwanted email and clicking ‘Unsubscribe’. This is usually a link at the bottom of the email. Companies are then obligated to take you off their mailing lists and liable to get in a lot of trouble if they don’t.

Sometimes mailing list senders are naughty and don’t include an unsubscribe link, in this case, if you know them feel free to send them an email back requesting they stop contacting you.

Unroll.me is a service that makes unsubscribing from unwanted email even easier. With one click you can unsubscribe from junk email it detects. Unroll.me also rolls up the email updates into a single digestible daily email.

Set up inbox rules

Advanced search and filtering options in modern day email inboxes give users a ton of automated control over what lands in their inbox and where it goes.

For example, you could filter emails from popular internet retailers into a ‘Retail’ folder. Or emails from certain co-workers into a ‘Check tomorrow’ folder. Or emails from family into an ‘Important’ folder.

Follow these guidelines on how to setup filters in Gmail.

Did you know this neat trick?
If you’re a Gmail user, you can append ‘+label’ before the @ symbol in your email address and you’ll still receive the email. E.g. ‘janesmith@gmail.com’ can also be used as ‘janesmith+facebook@gmail.com’ or ‘janesmith+example@gmail.com’ and continue to receive email. Users can then set up filtering options based on this label.

Mark as spam

Are you repeatedly receiving unwanted email from the same source? Mark it as spam. Not only will the email be deleted from your inbox, but future emails from this sender will automatically be directed into the spam folder. On top of this, email providers note the sender’s details and take this into consideration for other users.

Deal with essential email in a better way

Batch processing

Email drips into your inbox, one by one. One email here, a couple 5 minutes later, maybe another in an hour. It’s hard to set time aside for this variability. A huge productivity and sanity boost you can adopt is to batch process email. It’s much more efficient to deal with 10 emails in 30 minutes than 10 emails over 3 hours.

There are a few apps to help with this…

Block email apps when you’re not working

We will discuss app blockers in full on a future day on The 2018 Digital Wellbeing Advent Calendar, for now I’ll say that it’s possible to use an app blocker to prevent you from opening your email client outside of office hours.

Turn off email notifications

As we’ve discussed in other calendar updates your attention is extremely precious. The seductive beep and flashing LED of a notification is an instant interruption. Turn off your email notifications to enjoy peace of mind and email on your terms.

On iOS with Apple Mail…

On Android with Gmail…

Other devices and apps will be similar.

Use a separate work device

It’s almost impossible to do business in 2018 without involving email. Many companies have adopted BYOD (bring-your-own-device) policies. BYOD makes it difficult to establish solid work and life boundaries. Resist if you can.

Instead insist, if you must be contactable outside the office, your employer provides you with a work device. And avoid setting up work email on any personal devices.

Further reading

Author

Fraser Deans

Today's article was written by Fraser Deans. Fraser is a Digital Product Designer and founder of The Wholesome Technology Company, focused on practicing and spreading ideas for living well with technology.

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