Taming the monster: How to manage email

Taming the monster: How to manage email

Remember when you first discovered email? You learned how to use to set up an account, send, receive and forward. But did you learn how to manage email to stop it from becoming a monster that seems just too big to fight?

Are you are having one of those days where even the tiniest chore seems a massive task? Are you just clock-watching and accomplishing zero?

Why not drop everything else and clean up your email?

That way, you will accomplish at least one task today. And an important one.

One senior executive with whom I worked quite recently would empty his email in-box entirely at the end of every work day. Whether he finished at six or midnight, he left no email untouched. It is a great practice and one I am going to adopt.

Yep, like most people, I have far too many emails. But not for long.

Here’s what I am going to do . . .


I have sorted my INBOX by sender.

Trawling through these names, I can see plenty of emails from people that I either can’t remember, or don’t particularly want to hear from again. I could just delete them, but that is just asking for further trouble down the track.


I’ll start with the regular messages – mainly subscriber updates I have signed up to for one reason or another. I open one from each sender, and click unsubscribe (usually found down at the bottom of the message).

That took me longer than I thought it would, but it was a job done once and done well. My system is still trying to catch up with the 1026 emails or so that I sent to Trash.


Now I will segment my inbox, assigning the remaining senders to a folder. I could have three folders – one for personal email, one for business communications, and another for subscriptions. I could choose to have three different email accounts, to keep them totally separate.

Next, I apply some rules to ensure all new mail is delivered into the appropriate folder.

When that’s done, I’ll go through each folder and get rid of all the older stuff I don’t need.

That task took about an hour. Once again – well worth it.


Back to my main catch-all inbox.

First I’ll sort emails chronologically, and cut a massive swathe through unwanted older messages. Gone forever.

OK, now to re-sort with most recent first. I will flag every message that needs a response, or should be kept, and get rid of the rest. I am going to set myself a limit, from now on – and stick to it.

Wow, I certainly had some rubbish cluttering up my mailbox space.

Unfortunately, that type of rubbish clutters the mind every day. Better out than in.


Like most people, I own a phone, a tablet and a laptop. Which email accounts do I really need on each? I certainly don’t need to check Facebook, Twitter and email every five minutes to see what is happening in the world.

Tonight, I will remove some accounts from each device. Digital communication is meant to make life easier, but can be a monster.


Tomorrow, I will deal with my SENT mail. It’s easy to forget about out-dated sent messages; I am sure there is plenty of rubbish there too!

I have at least broken the back of the monster. Now I am better organised, I might just have enough inspiration to get cracking on some of the more important stuff.

Away I go, with the words of Abe Lincoln ringing in my ears: “Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing”.

But wait . . .


Do one final task – the most enjoyable one of all. Empty your TRASH and bid all those worthless emails goodbye forever.

Once you know how to manage email, it’s easy.

Feel free to leave a comment or share this with someone who is in danger of being devoured by the email monster.

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  1. Hi, Mike.

    This is some great advice. I’m not really a hoarder in real life, but I tend to hoard emails. I hate to delete them in case I might need them one day. I almost never do, but I still keep them. I also like the idea about unsubscribing from lists. I really need to do a bunch of that.

    • Thanks Andy. Some senders email their list five or six times a day. I am sure not all of us need that many reminders.

  2. Excellent thoughts; when you allow the emails to ‘pile up’, it really can be an unpleasant chore which prevents more useful tasks being completed.
    Best Regards

    • Agreed. Despite my efforts the other day, I still have another 100 or so emails in my inbox this morning. I think it’s time for “Rinse and Repeat”.;)

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