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  • Matt Balogh

Getting on top of your email

Is your email a disaster? Do you leave all your email in your in-box? Here are seven things you can do to fix the problem:

Clean up your in-box

Start with a big-spring clean. Create an email folder or Gmail tag or label called something like ‘old email’ or in Gmail, use the Archive tag, and move everything in your inbox to that folder. Having done that, look through the emails in that folder, are there any that require you to do something, like reply or pay a bill that is still outstanding? Move these back to the in-box. You should now have just a handful of emails in your in-box, all requiring some action.

Use email folders or tags

From now on, as you deal with each email, create a folder or tag, and move emails that you have dealt with in your in-box to that category, such as household bills, bank statements, pay slips or pay stubs etc. You are now well on your way to having well organised email. Note that you can copy emails to more than one folder, or give emails more than one tag – this does not duplicate the email.

Pull down linked items

When you receive emails that include links to bills, statements or payslips, open the links and save the files. You can either save the files to folders or cloud storage, but did you know you can save a file such as a pdf to an email folder as well? Saving these files is very important – if you change job, supplier or bank, you may no longer be able to access documents that you did not save from their system. As the robo-debt scandal in Australia proved, it is important to keep every payslip, pay-period by pay-period, and you should keep all bills and statements, you may be surprised by how often you need to retrieve these.

An optional tidy-up

At this point, you have adopted good email management practices for the future – but you may also wish to clean up your past emails as well. A simple process for this is to look at the various emails that you are now saving in folders or under tags, and search or sort your old email for emails from the same sender or with the same subject line. You can then move old emails from a particular account to your newly created folders or tags so that you have a more complete historical collection of that group of emails.

Stop the junk mail

Junk mail can be avoided – you just need to follow these steps. All junk mail from legitimate businesses and organisations will have an Unsubscribe button. The myth that this doesn’t work is perpetuated by the fact that there is often a lag of a week or so between choosing to unsubscribe and the junk stopping – but after a while it does work. Also, make sure that your email address is not displayed online. If you need to provide your email address online, use a different one than your personal email address. Same goes for your mobile or cell number. There can also be junk mail from rogue operators – you might suddenly start to get a whole heap of junk from inane random services. If unsubscribing to these doesn’t work, don’t keep trying to do that – mark them as junk. If they are advertising messages that you want to receive but you don’t want them to clog up your in-box, create an email folder for these, and use a rule to move them on arrival to that folder. That way, you can have a folder with advertising that you are interested in, such as Aldi specials, but not clog up your inbox with junk. These rogue junk mail senders usually provide cheap advertising for dodgy businesses. Occasionally they sell your email address, but most commonly, they just use it for sending emails on behalf of others, so even though you are getting junk email from dozens of different businesses, there is often only one sender. After marking them as junk, just grit your teeth and bear it for a few weeks – and they stop. These rogue senders are constantly harvesting for new email addresses and drop off old ones. Even if you get a huge amount of junk mail, if you work hard at it for a few weeks – it will all go away.

If you get pop-up notifications on your phone or computer from marketers that you don’t want, you can control these in the Chrome web browser or phone settings.

The final clean-up

I would never suggest deleting old emails – but you can save these to locations outside of your email. In Microsoft Outlook, you can save email folders as pst files and there is at least one tool, Google Takeout, that saves Gmails to a local or cloud device. Saving old emails, such as annually, reduces the space that your email takes up, which in turn avoids the cost of paying for additional capacity.

Use your in-box as a to-do list

Now that you have your email under control, stick with it. Keep filing your dealt-with email to folders or giving it tags, and your in-box will become a to-do list. You can even send emails to yourself to add things to your to-dos.

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