How to keep your email inbox from eating your brain

You know that barely-discernible-but-definitely-there feeling you get in the back of your head sometimes? Sort of like a high-pitched squeal? Yeah, that’s the sound of your email inbox eating your brain. All of us use email to some extent, and many of us are overwhelmed by it. However, you might not have any idea where to start fixing the problem – but that’s okay. I’ve got you covered. Check out the solutions below and enjoy your newfound peace of mind that comes from not opening your inbox to 34585 emails every single day.

Using Gmail Filters

This is my favorite tool and the one that helps me out the most. In the video above, I show you exactly how you can use Gmail to automate filtering and flagging of certain emails so that your actual inbox only has your important emails – you know, ones from real people – in it.

This is a great solution for:

  • Email subscriptions. I subscribe to my very favorite blogs that I don’t want to miss an update for, knowing that they’re all stockpiled in a place that I won’t miss and that won’t stress me out. Since I check my Google Reader even less than I check my Newsletter folder (and everything regularly gets marked as read), it’s nice to know I have a place to go for my favorite content.
  • Flagging emails from a particular client or person. Want to make sure you don’t miss an email from that special someone? Set it so that it stars, labels (recommendation: name of the project you’re working on together), and marks as important emails that come from a specific email address.
  • Categories. For example, all emails from my bank or from budgeting sites (Outright, etc.) get sent to the “Financial” folder automatically. That way, I don’t miss anything important!


OtherInbox is incredibly helpful – if you’re less hardcore about decluttering your inbox, it can probably handle most things automatically without you having to create a bunch of separate folders by yourself (like I did, haha). For example, it automatically sets up a shopping folder, a newsletter folder, etc. But it’s not quite as good as catching automated newsletters as my Gmail filter, so I use both.

Have a System

Some people have a super-advanced system that works for them. I don’t think of my system as advanced, but here’s the approximate framework of mine:

  1. Check email in morning – reply to important emails.
  2. Ignore inbox as much as possible until after finished with day’s work.
  3. Go through and reply to anything that was less urgent or take action on anything that needs action that I can do today. If I can’t do it today, put it on the list for tomorrow.
  4. Skim through Newsletters folder & other folders to see if anything catches my eye, read emails.
  5. Once every few days, go through and do a clean-out of folders – deleting or unsubscribing. (I don’t actually keep track, but I have a rule of thumb that if I delete a newsletter without reading it 3 or more times in a row then I just unsubscribe.)
  6. Friday evenings and/or Saturdays are my catch-up times – I reply to any emails I haven’t already, empty out folders whenever possible, and do general maintenance.

Other Tips

I asked y’all on Twitter what your favorite tips were, and this is what I got:

“Filters, folders and answering most e-mails within 24 hours (practice I picked up in my years as a paralegal).”Jo Crawford

“Evernote and Google Priority inbox. I send everything important to Evernote except items I need to act on right away.”Courtney Ramirez

“Folders and labels, they don’t always work but I know where to look for things.”Katie K.F.

“Lots and lots of folders! Even folders within folders.”Ashe

“I unsubscribe from stuff that is no longer relevant & report spam A LOT!!! I ¬†also star stuff that I need to reply to and archive it if I might need it in future but it’s not immediately classifiable.”Jeanie Witcraft

“folders! 1 for friends 1 for my mum (she sends loads of stuff) 1 for mails with images work related folder etc. I <3 folders!”Vera Lothian

(As you can see, I’m not the only folder junkie out there!)

Any favorite tips of your’s that I missed? Let me know in the comments!

PS: Have you checked out the Radiate in 2012 kit yet? The reviews are in, and they’re pretty fabulous if I do say so myself! Check it out, and get the tools you need to get clear on your dreams + start moving towards them for only $15.¬†

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