This is hard for me to admit, so I’m just going to come clean right away—I let my Gmail go. Just like debt or pounds of fat, it was gradual. Little by little, the messages came and I let them build up. What started as a brand new sparkling email in 2007, gradually became an email nightmare as I recklessly clicked through website signups and forgot to uncheck the SEND ME UPDATES box. No organization. No accountability—just pure spam chaos. So here we are. How bad? Oh, get ready.
Overall, I have 2,007 unread messages, 5,000 total. I use 30% of the 7697 mb allotted to me, and there is not one email filed or archived in its correct place. This is overwhelming. I stare at the home page, unread messages from Carnival Cruise lines, Priceline negotiator, important work related messages, my mother and even from that one Yoga class I took two years ago. Yikes.
Step 1: Find the spammers.
Ok, first things first, I have to find out where this spam is coming from.
By typing the following “Is:unread” in the Google search box, I am able to see every unread message I have had in my inbox since the beginning. Going down the list of unread emails, I found all the companies that I had somehow signed up for offers and updates: Priceline, Hello Bar, Amazon, Linkedin, Goodreads, Godaddy, Expedia, Twiter, etc, etc.
Step 2: Let the unsubscribing begin!
This part is easy, so easy in fact, that you might want to outsource it to your 8 year old nephew if you are short on time. (kidding!) Find the spam email, open it up, click unsubscribe on the bottom of the email and then delete the entire thread of your inbox. So after I unsubscribed to the company Priceline, I type “Priceline” in the email search box, which shows me all 75 unread messages from the company. Select all, trash icon. Boom. Priceline is gone for good.
Four hours later, I had gotten rid of 2,007 unread emails and had rid myself of all the idiotic brands that I had recklessly signed up for, including—I’m a little embarrassed to say—Holland American Cruise Lines and Victoria Secret (don’t judge, I bought something for my girlfriend a year back). And just for your information, here are some of the biggest culprits
Facebook tags and check-ins: 200
Twitter notifications: 400
Amazon Local, Amazon.com, Kindle Publishing: 400
Looking at the blank number next to my INBOX is such a peaceful feeling. Deep breath, yes, my gmail chi is increasing.
Step 3: Organization
If I hadn’t been a complete email rookie, I would have noticed that built into Gmail are some great features to organize email. First off, is Gmail’s label creator, in which you can name and color-code tags, such as PERSONAL, color code BLUE. Once you attach a label on an email, it will automatically be directed to a folder on your sidebar that has the same name (PERSONAL). Wow, what a concept!
In addition, Gmail has a “Star” system, where you can mark an email by level of importance. If you star an email, it will automatically be placed into the “starred” folder on your side bar, so you can come back when you are ready. Not only that, but Gmail is coded to recognize which emails you star, mark as important and reply to and so forth, so eventually it will help you organize emails by importance for you..
Lastly, check out the filter system which allows you to block emails to your preference, such as: emails that contain certain words, emails that don’t contain certain words, emails with a specific subject, or emails from a specific person. This will be crucial if for some reason an email does not have a unsubscribe button.
So here I am, eight hours into this endeavor and I have cut my emails from 5,000 to 800. That means I have either deleted or filed almost 4200 emails! I’m not going to lie, this feels good. I feel liberated, just like I lost 40 pounds or paid off all my credit cards (well, maybe not that good). But just like debt and weight loss, even if you take control, you still need a future plan. So with email, here is what I came up with.
When I do check my email in the morning, I need to file everything right away. I will star the important emails, archive the ones I want to save but don’t need to respond to and delete and unsubscribe to any spam I might have missed. On Friday, when I’m concluding the work, I will check the star labeled emails I might not have gotten to, as well as make sure there are no unread emails lingering.
Hopefully, most of you don’t have the same massive UN-organization in your email. But if you’ve been avoiding cleanup for a while now, sometimes it’s important to face facts. C’mon, you know you shouldn’t be getting 10 emails from Krispy Kream donuts daily. It’s time to face reality and clean that inbox up.