5 Hacks For Cleaning Out Your Email Inbox If It's Out Of Control

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There's nothing quite like the satisfaction you feel after finally responding to every email that needs your attention, but when you have thousands of unread messages, that's not exactly an easy feat. You could just accept that it's not a huge deal if you have a ton of emails that you'll never get to. Or you could get strategic and learn hacks for cleaning out your email inbox.

To be clear, it's totally normal to have way too many messages that you haven't opened. According to a study from software company Workfront, the average person receives 68 work-related emails in their inbox every day, and the majority of those require a response. That's not even counting all of the personal emails and spam mail you get on a daily basis — no wonder it feels impossible to get to the end of your inbox.

You're not alone if you're swamped with notifications, but thankfully, there are ways to combat it and stop inbox clog from happening. You don't need to spend hours reading all of your unread emails or marking everything as "read." If you want to clean out your inbox, you just have to be deliberate with how you handle new emails and set aside some time to categorize the existing ones.

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Unroll.me makes it easy to unsubscribe from several email lists at once, and Boomerang for Gmail archives messages and brings them back into your inbox at a later time. Checker Plus lets you delete and respond to emails without opening your Gmail inbox — instead, you get a browser pop-up with a preview of the email. Basically, you don't have to tackle your inbox alone.

Use Filters

If you're using Gmail, you can create a filter by selecting an email you want to delete, clicking the three dots on the inbox toolbar, and selecting Filter Messages Like These. From there, you can filter messages by subject, attachments, content, and sender. Then you can easily delete all of the messages from certain people or containing certain words.

Unsubscribe From Lists

If a cashier asks for my email address when I'm paying at a store, I always agree and immediately regret it. If you're a fellow people-pleaser who's signed up for one too many newsletter lists, unsubscribe to irrelevant ones as they come in. It won't fix your cluttered inbox, but it'll help in the future.

The Federal Trade Commission requires businesses to include an opt-out option in emails, and they can get in serious trouble if they don't make it easy for you to unsubscribe.

Respond To Important Messages

Responding to important emails as they come in can feel like a herculean task, especially if you don't feel up to it, but it makes it way simpler to wade through a full inbox and avoid missing messages.

And you should avoid using your email as a to-do list and having people send over things they need you to do, according to a 2018 article from Entrepreneur. (I'm guilty of this.) Instead, use an actual task management software like Asana or Trello, which make it easy to keep track of your to-do list and assign tasks to other people. You can encourage the people around you to use it as well.

Utilize The Search Feature

If you don't want to use filters to sort through your emails, or if your email client doesn't make it easy to set up filters, you can use the search tool. I searched my email inbox for "LinkedIn" and got hundreds of results, so I easily deleted all of the daily digests from the company.

It might take some time to reach zero unread emails, but if you're willing to rethink how you handle incoming messages and spend a few minutes organizing your inbox, it's attainable.