There’s a reason why heavy cleaning is unique to the springtime, and not just to our closets and pantries. People across the country bring out their inner Marie Kondo to declutter and get back a sense of balance to their lives and, ultimately, their minds. As PR professionals at a public relations agency and wizards in various industries across the board, a clean inbox can provide a sense of comfort not felt in other situations. What does a clean inbox look like, you might ask? While it mostly depends on how each person works and achieves success, a clean inbox can generally mean being able to distinguish between what’s important to keep and what’s not. It can also mean a high level of organization and compartmentalization that’s easy to the eye. Overall, a well-groomed inbox is undeniably a stress-reducing mechanism that provides confidence in and out of the workplace.
Where do I start?
Most of the time we are so busy and continuously compiling tasks to our to-do lists that we often neglect to take care of inbox clutter. The first and most important step is to find and figure out what works best for you through trial and error. Here are some simple ways to take back your beloved inbox and your energy this Spring at a public relations firm and beyond.
Spring into action
Repeat after me: “a clean inbox means a clear mind.” If you have 11,271 emails just lying around in one inbox folder and deem it nearly impossible to reference the exact email you are searching for, it’s time to change course and seek some initial help. Make a commitment to stop running away from the mess. Muster up the time and energy to sit down and get to the nitty-gritty that will eventually help keep you sane.
Ask a colleague for help. Chances are some of your colleagues have this thing called organization in the bag. I was not afraid of the 11,271 emails lying around in my inbox until I came across a co-worker’s beautifully structured Outlook account, which immediately made me feel at ease. I was inspired, to say the least! To provide an example, she had separate folders for clients, admin and personal work. After seeing the light, I used some of her methods on my own account and have regained a certain level of structure in my work and how I work. It’s a domino effect: when one area of your work is neat and understandable, it trickles into other areas as well.
You do not need to clean out your emails all at once as it might be too overwhelming, so take it day by day. A good place to start is to create folders for clients and admin work so that you can easily drop emails into corresponding folders. You can also create sub-folders within each folder to group together different types of emails. For instance, for a certain client folder, you might have sub-folders dedicated to pitches, media relations, client relations, and so forth.
Clean out what’s in the back
Delete what you don’t need. Chances are a Nordstrom sale on winter coats from five months ago does not “spark joy,” so toss it out! Go through your emails and while organizing, delete older ones, like newsletters and ads that have run their course, or create a separate newsletters folder to easily reference trending news stories and updates during any specific month. Most client communications emails should be kept in their respective folders for an easy search but trust your own judgment to delete the ones you simply do not need anymore. When it comes to media contacts (even the ones that have ghosted you), create a separate folder to drop in the email communications and easily come back to them at any point should there be a fit for timely stories.
Unsubscribe from marketing emails that don’t serve you
Sometimes signing up for an online giveaway or vacation package can automatically sign you up to receive an avalanche of nonstop emails. It’s just not worth clogging your work inbox. If you enjoy receiving marketing emails that are unrelated to work, switch them over to your personal email account.
Utilize the tools at your fingertips
Depending on the email system (Gmail, Outlook, etc.), each comes with its own unique tools that help you organize and save time. Outlook has “Rules” that allows you to decide where specific emails should go. It’s simple and convenient. The best part: once you set the rule, it will always complete the command automatically. For example. if you set a rule to move all emails from client A to client A’s folder, then the rule will comply moving forward. Plus, you can save time by not dragging emails into their respective folders but set a rule and watch the system work for you. You also have the option of color-coding your emails or using colorful tags as a roadmap to your inbox.
Cleaning out your inbox can be a tedious task, but it can also bring much ease and a burst of energy. We might be heading into Q2 and Spring very quickly, but it is not too late to take control over your inbox, and your sanity.