How To Simplify Your Inbox


Alright, since you’re a reader of Simple Marriage, it’s also likely that you’re a frequenter of other blogs (although SM is your favorite of course :)) This also means that you’re a person who regularly spends time online; either Tweeting, Facebooking, gaming, chatting, reading, emailing or some other feature offered via the Internet.
If you’re like I used to be, your email inbox is cluttered and full of emails you either will never need again, or important communications that are buried deep down in your inbox. So far down that you’ll have to scroll waaaaaayyyyy down the page to find the message from your Aunt Jenny that contains the directions to the family reunion this summer.
One of my main goals is to keep life as simple as possible.
What’s this have to do with marriage you say? When the world you live in is less cluttered and more ordered, you free up more time for wooing and romancing your spouse.
In other words, a clean and empty inbox will lead to more frequent and fantastic sex in your marriage.
So let’s simplify email and then hit the sheets with our spouse, shall we?
What follows is a compilation of information from a couple of different sources on the subject (which are all referenced at the end of this post).
To begin, the overall goal of creating a simple inbox is to:

  1. Check and send email from one place.
  2. Easily archive, filter, and retrieve email.
  3. Flag actionable mail but keep it out of the inbox.
  4. Access email from my mobile without loss of functionality.
  5. Do all this for free.
  6. Enjoy the look and feel of a clean and empty inbox.

To accomplish this task, we’ll be combining three things – a smart usage of Gmail, Gmail’s labels and filters (or folders if you refuse to move over to Gmail), and some basic rules to follow.

Task one

  1. Get a Gmail account: You can sign up here. For Inbox simplification, you need to be using Gmail in your browser only and not with a desktop mail client. Trust me. This will all make sense soon. If you don’t want to use Gmail and you thoroughly enjoy checking 5 different email accounts, so be it. Skip down to the next section below this list of steps.
  2. Point all your email accounts at Gmail: If you skip this step, the system won’t work for you. We’re going to get Gmail to check all of your email accounts: work, play, affair with your spouse notes; it’s all going to come to Gmail. A key idea behind this is to start checking and sending mail in one place instead of five. There are two options for getting mail into Gmail:
    1. Forward mail from your other accounts to your new address. This is the best option for most because you’ll receive mail a lot faster. Go ahead and set your other email accounts to forward to Gmail right now. If you don’t see a setting for this, use option 2 below.
    2. Alternatively, Gmail’s free Mail Fetcher service will periodically retrieve mail from each account you specify. Carefully follow the instructions to set up Mail Fetcher here. Do this for all of your email accounts.
  3. Set up sending from all your accounts: Now that you have all your mail coming to Gmail, we’re going to set things up so you can send email from multiple addresses and not just your Gmail one. To do this, simply follow the ‘custom from’ setup instructions. Repeat for all of your accounts.
  4. Install Google Notifier: This makes the Gmail experience complete. Get Google Notifier here. It will act as your mail alert service and give you a handy shortcut for composing new mail.
  5. Banish your old mail application: Remove it from from your Mac’s dock or PC’s shortcut bar. If you use webmail from some other provider, stop using it. It’s really important that you go to only one source (Gmail) from now on to send and receive mail. Just try it; you can always go back to your old ways if you decide it’s not for you after a few weeks.
  6. Have a clean up: That’s it! You’re set up. If you’ve told Gmail to check your other accounts like I’ve insisted, or if you’re an existing Gmail user, you’ll probably have an inbox full of email right now. Once you’ve read this article, the first thing to do is have a good clean up to get your inbox empty. If that means spending four hours clearing 1,043 emails, then just do it. Find that time somewhere so you’ll be able to continue winning the battle against your inbox for good.

Task two

Within Gmail, or other mail service if you skipped task one, you need to create labels so you have places to put all your future emails when they hit your inbox. This allows you to sort through your messages and either discard them, file them with the appropriate label/folder, then move on about your day knowing you can easily retrieve the information in the future.
For example, one of your labels should be “marriage” or “relationships”. That way you’ll have a place to store the free marriage classes we offer, as well as future great posts from Simple Marriage. Then create labels for all other areas of your life.

Task three

Follow these three rules at all times from here on out.

  1. Star and archive all messages that need action.
  2. Archive, file or delete everything else as soon as you’ve read it.
  3. Take action on your starred items twice daily. I recommend 11am and 3pm.

If you follow these rules, you’ll get the chance to experience the refreshing feeling an empty inbox provides. If you find your inbox backing up with email, you’re doing something wrong. Once you’ve scanned an email, you should do something with it. Don’t leave it in your inbox to sort out later.
I told you I’d give credit where credit is due for this post: here goes. Nick Cernis, Dave Navarro, and Merlin Mann.

(photo source)