How I learned to effectively manage my inbox for good

Last year around this time I pledged that I would finally detox my inbox and learn to manage my email once and for all. 365 days later, I’m happy to report I’ve changed for the better and haven’t looked back since!

Here’s what I did to make the switch:

1. Take advantage of Gmail tabs

I rely on Gmail’s “Promotions” and “Social” tabs to keep the junk out of my main inbox every day. That way, when I have the time, I can choose to give those tabs a once-over. At least once a month I do a quick scan in case I’ve missed anything important (like a good sale on my favorite e-commerce sites) and just bulk delete the rest.

I love these tabs for automated de-cluttering, but they only work as long as you drag anything you really enjoy reading (like Bossed Up emails, of course) to your priority inbox so you don’t miss the good stuff!

2. Limit time in the inbox

I used to have my inbox always open in a tab in my browser, but that was a huge distraction that made me susceptible to knee-jerk reactions instead of using email more intentionally. Now I only peek in on my inbox once every few hours – starting just after I tackle my first biggest objective of the morning.

Whenever possible, I try to finish the day with answering emails to clear out my inbox each evening, too.

3. I use the “touch it once” rule

No more mindless email-peeking! If I’m scrolling through emails on my phone, I commit to answering emails then and there, too. If I’m not ready to deal with it, I leave it alone and save it for reading later.

Otherwise, every time I peek in on emails just out of curiosity, I end up having to go back later, re-read them all over again and respond.

4. I archive everything

I used to keep emails sitting in my inbox because I was afraid of losing a record of them. This was my biggest mistake!

I didn’t realize there was an option between the trash can and keeping them sitting in my inbox, but there is! Get to know the archive button! It has become my best friends and I’m sure you’ll find the same thing.

Now whenever any email has been responded to and handled, I get it out of my view by clicking the “archive” button, which sends it away, out of my inbox, but still ensures that it comes up in search. And now, with Gmail’s handy nudge feature, certain emails that you’ve sent but haven’t gotten an answer back on will be brought back to your inbox a few days later.

In other words: I do everything I can to just keep active email threads that require my attention in my inbox. Otherwise, they get archived and out of the way.

5. I catch up once a week

Even though this new email regimen really has stuck and changed my work life for the better, nobody’s perfect. So if I haven’t cleaned out my inbox by the end of the week, I always try to reserve an hour at the end of the day on Friday to finish the job. There’s no way I could be perfect about achieving inbox zero every day, so giving myself these catch-up days is absolutely essential to stay on track.

Want to give your inbox a detox this season?

Give it a go and see if you can set your inbox up for better management this year. Just remember: don’t let perfection be the enemy of your progress. Stay diligent, but also have patience with yourself. Change is hard, but if you take it slow and steady, it can stick for you, too.

This article was originally published on BossedUp.