We all use email to stay connected. It’s fast, convenient, accessible from anywhere, less disruptive than a phone call, and leaves a conversation to look back on.
But without healthy habits, a grounded mindset, and good organization, your inbox can feel like it’s taking over your life.
Does your anxiety spike with each “new email!” alert? Are you missing important updates and event invites in an unruly inbox? Losing time sifting through unorganized messages to find that one email from your client with project deliverables?
We’re about to tackle all that! Let’s make your inbox a happier place — and a tool that actually improves your life and work.
Get Clear & Set Your Intentions
The first step to building healthy digital habits to notice the pain points. In the Digital Declutter Community, we start by reflecting mindfully on what’s working and what’s not.
Here are some reflection questions to get you started:
- How often are you checking your email or interrupted by message pings throughout the day?
- Do you have a system in place for processing your messages?
- Do you leave your email inbox open in a browser tab at all times? How does that impact your productivity and mood?
- How do you feel when you open your inbox?
- What would help you feel better about your email inbox? Less unread messages? More organized folders?
- Are you receiving lots of emails that aren’t important or relevant?
Decluttering our email is a big project, so it’s a good idea to begin with bite-sized, attainable intentions. In other words, “inbox zero” might not be the wisest, most supportive goal for you.
Let’s break down some small tasks that have a big impact when it comes to email inbox management.
Schedule Email Time
📅 Schedule time in your calendar to check your email. And preferably, don’t make it first thing in the morning!
Many of us get distracted and lost in our email — so checking it when you sit down to work in the morning can totally derail your day. Especially if you have a specific project to work on, wait an hour or two before you check your email in the morning.
Contrary to hustle culture ideas, having your email open in a browser tab at all times isn’t actually the best thing for your productivity or mood.
Scheduling specific time in your workday to manage your emails ensures that you have dedicated time to focus on that task — instead of getting interrupted whenever a new message pops up.
⛔ Turn off notifications so your concentration isn’t interrupted.
Think of boundaries as personal guidelines that protect your time, energy, and focus. Just like setting a specific time to deal with your inbox, turning off email notifications protects your focus while working on other things.
🗣 Communicate the best way to reach you if something is urgent.
Now that you’ve scheduled email time, let your colleagues and clients know how to reach you if it’s urgent. Hint: not by email!
Perhaps your team uses a messaging app like Slack, or you prefer to get urgent alerts over text. Either way, making your inbox a place for non-urgent items is a major way to soothe email anxiety.
You’ll get more peace of mind by not feeling pressured to constantly be checking your email when you know urgent messages are coming to you in a different way. Plus, you’ll contribute to a culture of healthy boundaries and clear-minded workdays.
📝 Set a note in your email signature.
As more and more people realize that an always-open email inbox isn’t the best thing for focus, many are choosing to note their committed email-checking time in their email signatures. That way, you’re setting clear expectations about when someone can expect a response. Peace of mind for you and them!
Send Less Email, Get Less Email
Want to know a trick to get less email? Send less email.
Yup, the less emails you send, the less you receive. 😲 Get creative and think of ways you can send less emails!
Perhaps a call would be better? Maybe one weekly email with your questions for someone will suffice? Or perhaps you can come to a polite understanding with your coworkers to just go ahead and skip the “thanks!” emails. 😉
Tools For Taming Your Inbox
Let’s be real: most of us are subscribed to way too many email lists and marketing newsletters that are clogging up our inbox.
Unroll.me is a simple, free way to clear your email clutter. Just plug in your email address and this app will show you all the email lists you’re subscribed to and gives you the choice to:
- Keep emails in your inbox
- Unsubscribe with one click
- Add them to your “Rollup,” a customized-for-you, scheduled newsletter digest
Personally, I used it to get myself unsubscribed from mailing lists I didn’t need, then closed my Unroll.me account for even less digital clutter. I also make a habit of not subscribing to new lists or unsubscribing sooner if I don’t find the emails useful…or even open them to find out.
Here’s one of my favorite email management tools: Boomerang!
Boomerang temporarily removes an email from your inbox and asks when you want to see it again. When your chosen reminder time arrives, Boomerang will bring that message back to the top of your emails, marked unread. It’s like an automated personal assistant for your inbox!
It’s incredibly convenient for following up on important threads, bringing event details to the top of your inbox when they approach, and so much more.
Let’s declutter! Actions to tidy your contacts right now:
- Schedule time for email: When would be the best time for you to read and respond to emails? Maybe it’s a few small chunks of time throughout the day or perhaps it’s one big one. Decide what works for you and scheduling that time in your calendar.
- Unsubscribe: Use Unroll.me to see what email lists you’re subscribed to and where you could tidy up.
- Communicate your boundaries: Let people know how to reach you urgently and when you will be in your email inbox.
- Send less email: Could that email be a text, phone call, or topic in a meeting? Consider how you might be able to send less emails!
- Turn off notifications, at least during focus time.
Changing habits is easier when we’re in it together. Not sure where to start?
1) Download our free habit-tracking workbook to get your mind aligned toward digital wellness.
2) Subscribe to the Digital Declutter Newsletter and be the first to receive monthly tips and event information.
3) Join the Facebook Digital Declutter Community for connection, support, and accountability.