Our Life

Email for the Overwhelmed

I hear a lot of people say “I hate email!” “I get way too many emails!” or “Text me, it’ll just get lost in my email.” I completely understand because email can be overwhelming until you tame the beast.

It’s a great tool which helps me get things done quickly at work, organize my social life, and have long, meaningful conversations with my far-away friends. But, like any tool, it can easily lose it’s edge if neglected. A few minutes of maintenance once a day will help keep your email volume manageable.

I’ll mention here that I’ve routed my other four email addresses to one account. Here’s what I see when I check my email:


The panel on the left shows my folders. There are 8 unread emails in my Inbox, 7 in Drafts, 9 in Spam and so on. Over time, I’ve set up filters to send work emails to the Altadore folder, skipping the Inbox but keeping them marked as unread. This way I can see at a glance if I have any new work emails. I’ve done the same thing with other aspects of my life. As you can see, Friends is a separate category. I get to decide if I’m working or playing by choosing which folder to dive into.

My Inbox is on the right with all 8 unread emails and one already read. The first thing I do is clean that out. The only emails that should be showing up in my inbox are those which haven’t been routed to one of my folders. These are usually newsletters and notifications. I’ll scan them, deleting anything I’m not interested in and if I have time, I’ll deal with the emails that require action. My goal is an empty Inbox.

In terms of maintenance, if I want to stop getting emails from HARO, for example, I’ll click on the email and unsubscribe. If I can’t unsubscribe, I mark it as spam. Or I’ll take a moment to create a filter which sends everything from that address or with that subject directly to the trash. If I’ve gotten an email that I belongs in a folder, I take a moment to create a filter and re-direct future emails. Email from Bilbo Baggins will never again show up in your Inbox if they belong in your Friends folder.

Next, I go to the Spam folder just to make sure there’s nothing in there that shouldn’t be:


On this day I found an email from the chatlist that didn’t belong in spam so I checked it and clicked on the “Not spam” button. Then I deleted the rest, leaving an empty Spam folder.

Finally, I check the folders with new emails, read and archive anything not requiring action and leave everything that’s pending behind. When I’m finished with a folder, it looks something like this:


The red stars mean I need to take action and the orange stars mean I need to take action after receiving a response. No star means it’s in the works but still on my radar.

Housekeeping complete, I can settle in to write and answer emails. Or do something away from my desk, secure in the knowledge that I’m on top of things. If you think this method might work for you, I’ll happily help you set it up. No one should be burdened with email clutter and life’s too short to wade through junk mail.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

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