Get Your Email—and the Clutter Within—Controlled

By Lissa Cupp, vice president, e-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, ACCO Brands

Ever since the first tolling of “ You’ve Got Mail” from America Online, email has become a standard part of our lives, both personally and in business. Checking email has become a typical part of everyday life. For example, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, more than 90 percent of Internet users between 18 and 72 said they send and receive email, making it the top online activity just ahead of search engines. Another example: According to a study by the American Management Association, U.S. workers spend an average of 1 hour and 47 minutes per day dealing with email alone.

We could produce statistic after statistic saying the same thing. But the bottom line is this:


Email is a part of nearly everyone’s life. The problem is that it’s also becoming a burden to time management and productivity. One of the culprits behind this is email clutter.

No, clutter isn’t restricted to your living space or place of work—it’s present in the digital world, too. There are several things you can do to keep a cluttered email box from ruling your day and getting back to a productive, well-managed lifestyle and workday:

  • Create a virtual file cabinet for your inbox. Use folders and functions such as color-coding and flags to divide, sort and conquer your email. Some of the sorting can be automatically handled by your email system. Most allow you to set up “rules” for incoming emails and automatically direct them to specific folders or mark as spam.
  • Speaking of spam, make sure to flag emails that come in under the spam filter radar. That way, they will be properly dealt with in the future.
  • As tempting as it may be, don’t subscribe to every newsletter or promotional email list that you encounter. If you do subscribe to any of these, have a specific folder to keep them separate from other email. And if you’d like to pare down your current incoming newsletters and promotional emails, don’t hesitate to use the “unsubscribe” button.
  • Address the import messages at hand. Don’t let them hang around your inbox because eventually, they’ll get pushed to the bottom of the list and forgotten. Also, if there’s an opportunity to answer any email in two minutes or less, do it! 
  • Create a schedule or routine for checking email. Limit this to only 3-4 times a day and generally arrange the times at the start, middle and end of the day. Use a reminder system on your calendar so you don’t forget to do this.
  • Keep your email program closed. That’s right—shut it down, or at the bare minimum, turn off your alerts and pop-ups. Think of it this way: It’s very doubtful that any email you receive is life or death. If it’s a matter that is of the utmost importance, you’ll be receiving a call or a personal visit instead.

Email may be looked at as a necessary evil by many, but the key word here is “necessary.” It’s a part of our lives and culture—we simply need to show self-discipline in how we handle the process and the digital clutter that comes with it. If the right steps are taken and a consistent routine is established, an increase in productivity and time savings is almost assured.

Don’t let your email control you and your schedule—use this information as well as our quick checklist of email decluttering tips on to stay ahead of the email onslaught. Manage your mailbox and have a productive day!

[photo by kristiewells]

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