5 e-mail processing hacks. (No one needs em more than me. OK, maybe a few people need em more. But I do need em.)

A machete. (Kind of.) Get it?
A machete. (Kind of.) Get it? For slicing thru your inbox?

I’m desperately trying to forget something my crunchy-crush (Leo Babauta) recently wrote on his Zen Habits blog:

He tries to keep his email inbox under 50.

Can you imagine? He’s such a beloved dude – such a beacon of light for his faithful flock – that I’m sure his inbox is bombarded / pelted / inundated with pleas for his attention every single day of his bright and shiny, self-disciplined life.

I want to get to that 50-email limit, too. But right now, I’ll settle for getting mine down to 500 from – gasp – today’s count of…9,108.

So let’s figure out how to do that, shall we?

On y va. Allez-y. Let’s go!*

* (NOTE: Most of this post will be Gmail-centric; as much as Hubby urges me to use the classic Mail program on my Mac, it just doesn’t “speak” to me the way Gmail does.)

5 Solid Strategies for Zapping Email

1. If  “unsubscribe” isn’t working, let big, bad Gmail help you out. I get frustrated (read: ballistic) when I’ve taken the time to unsubscribe from email lists and new ones keep springing up like those loathsome critters in Whac-A-Mole. So I’m thrilled to have found the “Unsubscribe and report spam” feature in Gmail. When you click on an email from a list you want to remove from your life, pan your eyeballs up to that row of action icons on top. Look for the one shaped like a stop sign with an exclamation point in the center. Clicking that will in turn allow you to hit “Unsubscribe and report spam.” Though I feel bad for playing the spam card with companies I’ve ordered products or newsletters from in the past, I gotta move on and seize control of my inbox destiny.

 2. Take full advantage of Gmail’s new-ish organizing buckets: “Primary,” “Social” and “Promotions.” Obvi, when it comes to ruthlessly deleting emails and reducing the size of your inbox, you wouldn’t start with Primary, as that’s what mostly “real”: It’s either responses to emails you yourself have sent, or it’s incoming from people you actually know, or might want to know. For me, Promotions is the primary get-rid-of-it hunting ground, because I don’t want or need 99.9 percent of what’s living in that bucket. In a perfect world, I’d have the time to marvel at the sheer wittiness of J. Crew’s daily missives, but I don’t live in a perfect world. And since I’m not very (electronically) Social, I’m okay with zapping most of that stuff, too.

3. Accept that you can’t possibly read all the completely awesome newsletters you’ve subscribed to. Plug the newsletter name into your email search tool, do a quick scan and save 5 for later reading. Okay, 10. Now highlight the rest and send them off into the ozone. Try to do this regularly. For the most part, you can probably visit the newsletter’s website of origin and read back issues until the proverbial cows come home.

4. Archive….sparingly. I’ve read many “helpful” blog posts that suggest that you not worry about teeming, 10k-plus email inboxes. Just archive them, lock, stock and barrel, these experts tell us. Gmail has plenty of storage space. (Actually, I think it’s even Gmail itself that tells us that…) But IMHO, that’s just sweeping the problem under the rug. Like when I beg the Wee Lass to clean up her room and I find her shoving stuff, ad hoc, into what she calls “random” boxes. “You’re the one who told me it’s always good to have a ‘random’ box,” she’ll say, when I call her on it. Oops! Still, she’s an 8-year-old collector/hoarder. You, on the other hand, are an organized, thoughtful grownup with self-discipline.

5. Set aside a specific chunk of time to process email. You’re checking email 50 times a day, but are you processing email 50 times a day? Probably not. I have a personal philosophy, one that I most definitely don’t adhere to all the time: Do what you’re doing. So when you’re in “process” mode, really, truly process. And that means taking one further action besides just quickly scanning. Really read it, then either respond to it, archive it or delete it. Keep taking that next step until it becomes automatic.

And on that note: My next step is out the door to pick up my sweet little collector / hoarder from school. Bon weekend, chere Momoverettes.