I recently returned from an amazing, whirlwind family vacation. I looked at my email once or twice the morning we left, and then didn’t open it again until I returned to the office. It was glorious.
Until I realized there were over 400 emails in my inbox. 😳
This doesn’t just happen after vacation. Maybe it’s a week with endless meetings, extra time focused on a project, too much time on Facebook, or any other reason our email inboxes get out of control.
Regardless of the reason, 400 or 10,000 unread emails in your inbox is stressful.
Figuring out how to catch up on email while you’re also catching up on actual work can be challenging.
But it doesn’t have to be!
I once worked with a guy who, when he returned from vacation, would delete all emails and voicemails without looking at them. That’s certainly one way to catch up on email!
The first time I witnessed this behavior, I was in awe.
I’ve since heard it described as “declaring email bankruptcy,” or wiping the slate clean and starting over.
Email bankruptcy: When your email inbox is so overloaded that you delete everything and start over from scratch.
I don’t know about you, but there is no way I could ever have the nerve to do that.
In this particular co-worker’s case, a large percentage of his work was time-sensitive, meaning that 75% of his messages probably were irrelevant after any length of time.
The remaining 25% would haunt me. What was there? What if it was important?
His theory was that if it was truly important, the person would ask again. Considering that I never heard anyone comment about his work going unfinished, he must have been right.
If you’re like me, and can’t fathom actually declaring email bankruptcy, I’ve found an alternate solution that achieves the majority of the benefits, without any of the risk:
The “Archive all” function.
This “safer” alternative to declaring email bankruptcy removes all emails from your inbox, unclutters your daily workspace, and gives you the mental space needed to start fresh.
Bonus: If you truly need a piece of information from one of those emails, it’s there.
And unlike shoving stuff in a physical closet, most email accounts have enough space that this has no effect on storing or retrieving any other emails.
How to use the Archive All function to catch up on email
Practically speaking, Gmail makes this incredibly simple with the “archive” button.
1. Simply select all of your emails (select the button at the top)
2. Then hit the “Archive” button.
3. Gmail pops up a notification that “All 50 conversations on this page are selected. Select all 402 conversations in Inbox” (Obviously, this is my example, and 402 would show the total number of conversations you have in your inbox).
4. Choose to Select All and hit the Archive button.
5. If you really want to take a quick scan, you can archive by page with 50 at a time.
In Outlook, or another email client:
1. Create a new folder.
2. Label the folder “Archive.”
3. Select all the emails in your inbox (CTRL + A on a PC, or Command + A on a Mac).
4. With all emails selected, simply drag and drop over to the newly created Archive folder.
You can now start from a clean slate, with the ability to find any lingering email when someone asks you in the hallway, “Hey, did you get my email about XYZ?”
Need a simplified day-to-day email management strategy along with a vacation strategy? Check out this super simple email organization methodology.