Taming your inbox

Email has been around since the ‘70s. At first, its use was limited to the military and other professionals, but today billions of users send billions of emails every day. I have more email accounts than I care to count: work accounts, ministry accounts, personal accounts, and junk accounts. Chances are you have multiple accounts too. Checking multiple mailboxes can be time consuming without the right tools and techniques. Here are a few tips for taming your mailboxes to free up your valuable time.

Unsubscribe

Your email inboxes can become cluttered if you browse the web, purchase from online stores, or create online accounts with your email address. Your information is a valuable marketing resource that companies are willing to pay well for. I often end up on mailing lists because I forget to select the “opt out of email newsletters” option in the fine print. Gmail has a great feature that searches your emails to find unsubscribe links and helps you get off lists you did not intend to sign up for.

Consolidating accounts

If you have a lot of email accounts, you can consolidate them into a single master mailbox service. For example, Gmail and Outlook allow you to add another email address you own. You receive the email and can respond from your secondary email address, but the master email account filters spam, applies your rules, and protects your privacy. A second benefit is that you don’t have to set up those accounts if you switch phones or email programs. Another reason for consolidating accounts is when you have several accounts that you hang on to because the email addresses were printed on something years ago and there is a remote possibility someone will try to contact you through them.

Focused inbox

A fairly new feature is the focused inbox. Inbox by Gmail and Microsoft Outlook both support this technology. Emails sent directly from people are automatically are prioritized, while ads and other non-pressing emails are put to the side. It can serve as a first line of defense against cluttered mailboxes.

Setting up rules

A second tool for tackling inbox woes is setting up good rules, which most email programs and online email hosts offer. If you agree that not every email needs an immediate response, or even needs to be read straight away, you can reduce the amount of time spent checking email. For example, you can create a rule that directs emails from important people to a special folder or highlights them a certain color. Chat logs, purchase receipts, sale ads, and other non-pressing emails can be automatically sent to a read-once-a-week folder. A focused inbox divides your email into primary and secondary levels, while a good set of rules can color code or split your email even further so that the most important emails get your attention first.

Using recipes and flows

If you are really interested in cleaning up your email, check automation sites like IFTTT, Zapier, Microsoft Flow, or Workflow on iOS, which allow you to create more interesting rules for email. For example, email can be automatically converted to PDF files or sent to a Kindle reader. Sites like IFTTT can make checking email fun again.

Hopefully, these tips will help reduce the time you spend sifting through emails and free you to be with people. No matter how many emails we send and receive, life-on-life ministering is one of the greatest works in Japan in which we can be involved.

Useful links

Gmail: Adding another email account

https://support.google.com/mail/answer/6078445?hl=en

Gmail: Instructions about unsubscribe button

https://www.digitaltrends.com/computing/google-adds-an-unsubscribe-button-to-spam-mail-in-gmail/

Microsoft: Focused inbox

https://goo.gl/nhNzs9 (shortened link to page at support.office.com)

Inbox by Google: (if you sign in with Gmail account it will just take you to that site)

https://inbox.google.com/

IFTTT:

https://ifttt.com/collections/

Graphic: Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. Created by card karma and retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cardkarma/5990183098. Background added.

Jared Jones lives and works in Takasaki, Gunma. He’s a church planter for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. He’s been in Japan since 2009 with his family. He and his wife have five children.

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