As someone with anywhere upwards of 10,000 emails in my inbox–many of them unread, to the dismay of my OCD friends–I am always looking for tips and tricks to help me manage my email. One of those is to start each new year with an absolutely clean inbox. Remember what that looks like? Yeah, me neither. While on one hand you can declare “email bankruptcy” and simply delete every old email and start over, I have a better trick for how to clean out your inbox if you use Gmail, and plenty of other services too.
1. Search for every item in your inbox. You do this by typing in: label:inbox though Gmail will autofill it for you.
2. Click the “select all” box at top left. Then just under that, click the pop-up notification that reads Select all conversations that match this search. This allows you to click all 8.994 instead of just 100 at a time…which takes forever. If you’re like me.
3. Create a new label called Inbox 2014. (Or whatever you’d like.) Click apply, then give it a moment; it can take a while if you have a lot of emails in need of labels.
4. Now click the label in your left column called Inbox 2014, or search for label:inbox-2014. Again, “Select all conversations that match this search” so you can batch edit them and save lots of time.
5. Archive all of them, so they are no longer in your inbox. They are now archived under the Inbox 2014 label. And if they’re under other labels too, you can delete the new label and just keep them categorized in fewer places.
6. Behold! As your shiny new 2015 inbox is now empty. Well, unless you’re like me and you’ve gotten 27 new emails since you started the process.
Tip: You can always return to that Inbox 2014 label if you want to clean it out even more thoroughly (unless you have a ton of storage and don’t really care how much is archived), but this is a great quick fix to get you on a better path right off the bat. If you can continue following the “touch it once” rule–act on an email as soon as it comes in, whether it’s to file for later, archive, delete, or respond–you’ll be able to keep up a lot better. Then, when you have a little more time, go back to that Inbox 2014 and you can pare those down too.
Not a Gmail user? No worries. You can try variations of this Gmail inbox hack with any email system that allows you to apply multiple labels or folders to a single email message, like Yahoo Mail or Outlook 2013.
And hey, if you’re really committed to staying organized, use a service like unroll.me which can bundle all your subscription emails into one place for easier deletion or action, too. That’s helped me a ton over the past year–and really helped me to realize just which online catalogs send seventy bazillion emails a day to their subscribers. Unsubcribe, thank you.
Here’s to a clean start to 2015 for everyone.