Remember when email first came out?
You were so excited.
You didn't care what email you received. You just wanted email.
Boy...the world has come a long way, hasn't it?
Now you don't want any more email.
First of all, I don't see email going away anytime soon. I write that despite the increased use of iMessage/text messaging, Slack, and countless other ways we can communicate with each other.
But if you don't get control of your email inbox, you're setting yourself up for a lot of stress (the bad kind of stress).
Before I give you three solid ways to regain control of your inbox, let me point out three things you should not do.
Now you know what not to do, here are three tips that will help you regain and maintain control of your email inbox.
Embrace and use the power of unsubscribing
If you have in excess of a dozen or so unread emails, this will take some time. But I promise you, once you complete this exercise, you will feel a sense of relief instead of stress.
Start small but start now. The next time you receive an email, immediately determine if you really need and if the answer if no, then unsubscribe. Do not wait to do this later. Do it as you make this decision.
Once you unsubscribe from the Walmart newsletter, for example, you will (shouldn't!) receive any emails from them in the future.
You get back control of your inbox just like you eat an elephant - one bite at a time.
By the way, both the United States and Canada take unwanted email (commonly known as spam) very seriously. When you click on the unsubscribe link (which every email newsletter is required by law to have), you must be removed from that newsletter. If they don't, report them. In the United States, you can report them on the Federal Trade Commission website.
Be careful who you give your email address to
If you're at a networking event or a conference and someone asks you for your business card, do what I do: ask them why they need it. I mean, after all, they're standing right in front of me.
This puzzles most people I say it to. I know that there is a very good chance they will just add me to their email newsletter list (again, this is against Federal law). I've been the victim of this more times than I can count - and I know you have as well.
So, as they stutter and ask me why...I tell them, "Well, we're here right now. Let's talk."
In most cases, people ask you (and me!) for your business card before they ask you anything else. That makes no sense at all.
Here's an idea: have a conversation in the moment. And then, if we agree that we need to stay in touch, I'll give you my phone number and email address. But I'll always add, "You do not have my permission to add me to any email list." At this point, they usually begin to blush and mutter, "Oh, I won't". Yes, it's odd but I am really protective of my inbox. I only want people I give permission to have access to me there.
Be very careful who you give your contact information out to.
Use rules to triage your email
Finally, nearly every email client has the ability to create rules. Use them.
If you always do the same thing with a particular email, moving it to a folder for example, then set up a rule so you don't have to do it yourself.
If you implement these three tips, you will begin to regain and then maintain control of your email inbox.