Really enjoyed this piece by Rachel Kramer Bussel:
Not for the first time, I considered declaring email bankruptcy: mass-deleting all the newsletters, marketing promos, Google news alerts, and notes from friends, family, and work contacts that accumulated over the years. I’d give myself a blank slate, one that allowed me to actually notice the professional opportunities that came my way. Yet I couldn’t bring myself to nuke my inbox entirely. What if I wanted to reread a note my late grandmother had written to me? Or look up which Black Friday promos a company offered in 2016 to better inform my shopping this year?
I long ago learned to stop worrying about my email. We all get a ton of email, and if you’re a grownup, you probably have 3-4 different email accounts that you are responsible for patrolling. My work account has 48,322 unreads; my primary personal account has 2,805; secondary personal (the one where the volume of junk is so high that it exists only for shopping receipts; everybody has that one account) is at 95,776. Collectively, it’s a lot but it’s not impossible.
Here are my tips for managing the chaos:
Turn off unread flags.
If you are determined to leave behind that “inbox zero” silliness, then this should be your first step. Go into your email app or notification settings, and turn off the unread counts/flags. I’m referring to the “14,778” number that appears on the icon of your email app, which signifies the number of unread emails therein. Turn that shit off. That number is meaningless, and it just causes anxiety.
Search is your friend.
Don’t bother filing emails into a labyrinth of folders and sub-folders. It takes too much effort and it won’t really help you find anything any faster. Use the Archive function if you must, but the Search feature is your best friend in taming the chaos. The search function in most modern email apps is fast and accurate. Need to find that one email from HR that they sent six months ago? Type in a few keywords and scroll the results to the correct time frame…there’s the email you wanted.
Flag the vital stuff
If it’s an email that you will absolutely need to reference or respond to later, go ahead and flag or star that bad boy. This is particularly important if the sender or content isn’t memorable or unique enough to easily surface in a search.
Most email takes up very little actual storage space, so there is rarely any benefit to deleting something — especially if there’s any chance of you needing it later. Again, search is your friend.
If you receive an email that gets lost in your chaos and it needed a response, just wait. If it’s truly important they’ll email you again.