5 Strategies for Clearing Out Old Emails

Email gets old really fast—especially if you’re receiving lots and lots of emails every day. The ones you received last month, six months ago, or last year may not be relevant anymore. But if you’re not managing those emails as they come in, you might find yourself with an overstuffed inbox of 1,000, 5,000, or 10,000 emails! Sorting through those old emails and determining what to file and what to delete can be a big task. Here are five strategies for dealing with it.
Create a system for your newest emails: Before you start clearing out the old emails, make sure you’ve got a system in place for dealing with the emails you’ll receive today and in the future. Start managing the newer emails first and get them into a hot file system so that from today forward you can manage your email more effectively. After today’s emails are being managed better, you can go back and sort through the oldest emails and start archiving those.

Clear out the obvious clutter. Chances are that as you go through the oldest emails in your inbox you’re going to find a lot that can simply be deleted. Very few of them will likely still need actions. Though there may be thousands of messages in your inbox, chances are you’ve probably already acted on most of them or they no longer require action because they are out of date. Alternatively, there may be certain people who send you emails whose messages do not contain important information, such as e-newsletters you’ve signed up for. You can sort your inbox by sender and delete everything from that sender in one fell swoop.

Archive past a certain date: Pick a day—any day—and emails that have come in before that day you’re simply going to archive. Create a new folder called “Archive” and set aside every message received prior to, for instance, January 1st of last year. Move everything from that date and older into that Archive folder. If you need something you can always go back into it, but in the meantime your inbox is now free of clutter.

A chunk a day: Work on a chunk of your email backlog each day. Let’s say you have 5,000 messages in your inbox. You could spend a few minutes a day with a target of getting through 100 of those messages. You’ll accomplish this quickly because again these are old and mostly out-of-date emails. In time you’ll have cleared out the backlog so you’re only focusing on the messages that still require your attention.

Treasure hunt: Look through that backlog of messages specifically for the things that you still need to do—and ignore the rest. Find the priorities or tasks—the treasures—that are still in that inbox but that have been pushed down past the front screen of your messages. Once you’ve found them, move them into your hot files. Then go back to your inbox and archive everything. All the old messages can now be put away.

Author's Bio: 

Joshua Zerkel, CPO® is the founder of Custom Living Solutions, a San Francisco-based productivity and organizing consulting firm. Joshua specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs save time, be more productive and make more money by getting organized at home and at work. www.customlivingsolutions.com for your FREE copy of “The Top 12 Mistakes to Avoid when Getting Organized”.