It’s a big, big (virtual) world out there—and getting bigger. Depending on who you ask, we spend anywhere from two to fourteen hours a day online. And whether you fall at the two hour mark or the 14-hour one, everyone’s online life could do with a bit of simplifying.
I’ve broken my tips on how to simplify your internet into two areas that I spend most of my time on: email and social media. This week I’ll be talking about email, but check back next week for strategies on simplifying your social media presence, too.
I’d love to hear what you think of my tips, so try a few out and let me know how things go in the comments.
How to Simplify Your Email
1. Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list.
Your inbox should only be used for unread emails. I deal with emails by scanning them quickly, writing any action items (even ‘Respond’ if it merits a response longer than 2 minutes) on my To Do list, and then either Snoozing the item until later or marking it as Done.
If I’m sending an email that I think I’ll need to follow up on, I simply send it and tell Inbox to Snooze it so it bounces back at a later date as a reminder.
2. Use Inbox for Google.
I can’t say enough good things about Inbox, the newest version of Gmail. It’s able to “bundle” similar and unimportant emails (think promotions, ads, and receipts) to keep them organized, and offers a host of tools to keep you on track, easily.
3. Utilize all available tools to keep your inbox clear.
I love using Inbox’s Snooze and Mark As Done features to keep my inbox at zero. Google Labs also has a ton of great features you can enable for your Gmail, or you can add third-party apps like Boomerang to help with email management.
4. Figure out a system for checking emails that works for your working style and your team: either setting dedicated email times, or using the 2-minute rule.
One strategy is to schedule 2-4 times a day to check your inbox, and letting everyone know that you’ll only be checking your email at those times. You can even set up an Out of Office notification along the lines of, “I check my email at X and Y times a day. If you need a more urgent response, call me at Z.”
I prefer more frequent check-ins, so it’s not uncommon to find me checking my email every hour. Sometimes I’ll leave it alone for longer if I’m trying to really focus and get something done, but it’s important for me to be more available because a lot of my job revolves around communication.
To keep myself from getting bogged down, I utilize the 2-minute rule: if I can respond in under 2 minutes, I do so immediately. If not, it goes on the To-Do list, and I manage it whenever I’ve finished the task at hand.
5. Unsubscribe instead of deleting.
If you’re like me, you get a ton of promotional emails delivered to your inbox daily. Rather than delete them (or worse, leave them in your inbox to rot), open them once and click Unsubscribe. If you make Unsubscribing a regular habit, you’ll be amazed at how easily you’re able to manage your inbox.
6. Utilize Unroll.Me to corral the subscriptions that you do want to receive.
At their core, email subscriptions are meant to be useful by delivering wanted information to you that you might otherwise miss. Unroll.Me keeps those emails from cluttering your inbox, by collecting them all and sending you just one email a day with previews to everything you’ve received.
I like to use Unroll.Me for all of my nonessential emails – the things I like to browse for inspiration, or when I’m looking for something to read on the weekend.
7. If given the option, use a Facebook login instead of providing your email.
It’s becoming more common for websites to offer you multiple ways to sign up: either with email, or with an alternate login. Whenever you can, use your Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google logins to avoid signing up to yet another email list.
You’ll know if this is an option when you first sign up for the website or service – they’ll prompt you to either sign up “with your email” or “with your Facebook login.”
Simplifying your online presence can seem daunting at first, but the trick here is to sweep everything (get to Zero!) and be vigilant about everything that comes in.