March 20, 2017

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?

If you are having one of those days where even the tiniest chore seems a massive task, clock-watching and accomplishing zero, why not drop everything and clean up your email.

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

One senior executive with whom I worked would empty his email in-box entirely at the end of each 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, 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 have no real wish to hear from again. I could just delete them, but that is just asking for further trouble down the track.


Let’s deal with some of the regulars, mainly lists that I have signed up to for one reason or another. Open one from each sender, and click unsubscribe (usually found way down the bottom of the message).

Wow, this took me longer than I thought it would, but this 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 the Trash.


It occurs to me now that I should segment my inbox, assigning a folder to some of those senders who will remain. (Or, as some have suggested, divide into three – assigning one for personal, another for business and another for subscriptions. Better still, have three different email accounts so you can separate them totally!)

Then apply some rules to ensure the new mail is delivered into the appropriate folder.

Once done, I am going to go through each of those boxes and get rid of all the older stuff I don’t need.

OK, it took me an hour. Once again, well worth it.

Now my mailbox is getting to a more manageable stage.


Back to my main catch-all inbox: Sort chronologically. First, I’ll start with the oldest and cut a massive swathe through them. More messages gone forever.

OK, now re-sort by most recent first. I will flag every message that needs a response or that I want to keep and get rid of those that clearly don’t. I am going to set myself a target of one hundred.

Wow, I do have some rubbish cluttering up mailbox space.

Unfortunately, some of that rubbish is cluttering my mind too, and does so every day.


Like most in world today, I own a phone, a tablet and a laptop. Which email accounts do I really need on each? I am not one to check my Facebook, Twitter or email every five minutes to see what is happening in the world.

So tonight, I will remove some accounts from each device. Email is meant to make life easier, but it is a monster.


Tomorrow, I am going to deal with my SENT mail. I am sure there is plenty of rubbish that can go from there too! We tend to forget about the long out-dated messages we’ve sent, and they can hang around forever if we don’t do some clearance work.

However, I have broken the back of the monster and I feel better organized, better about myself and I might just have enough inspiration to get cracking on some of the more important stuff.

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,” away I go. But wait . . .


Just one final task, and it’s the most enjoyable of all. Empty your TRASH and bid all those worthless emails goodbye forever. Once you know how to manage email, it’s easy if you try.

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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Andy - March 20, 2017 Reply

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.

    Mike - March 21, 2017 Reply

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

John - March 21, 2017 Reply

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

    Mike - March 22, 2017 Reply

    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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