drowning in unread email messagesThe other day I helped my Mom print something from her email … a Yahoo account. And she had thousands of unread messages. Thousands – most of which were probably junk and simply needed to be deleted. But instead of unsubscribing or kicking the unimportant messages to the curb, she let them compile and grow into an unmanageable level. Where she had become so overwhelmed, she didn’t even know where to start. Where it stressed me out, even though I had zero ties to the account.

In her defense, she rarely uses email. But it’s not as though she’s the only person who handles electronic correspondence this way. I’ve seen and heard about countless others who communicate under the same circumstances. Marking things as new or emailing articles to themselves to check “later,” until “later” never takes place. Until they are too stressed to deal with all of the unread messages.

If left untouched, however, it’s a problem that will only grow. Making it hard for others to get information across, and causing stress for email owners each and every time they log in.

If Your Email is Out of Control:

  • Go through and delete everything. Everything. If it’s important, whoever’s trying to get ahold of you will try again. (And really, if it’s that important, you should have already dealt with it.)
  • Start over. Deactivate your account and let everyone know your new address. You can also forward, that way new messages come in (that were directed to your former address), but you don’t have to deal with the old ones.
  • Unsubscribe. When newsletters come in, if it’s not something you regularly read, ensure they won’t keep flooding your inbox. Each time one of these unrequested messages comes in, take care of it then and there. For good.

Then, once the initial problem has been taken care of, read or delete. If you read an email and then assign it for later, not only have you wasted those few minutes (or even seconds), you’ll have to spend time addressing each fact once more. Instead, when items can’t be looked into right away, use a star or highlighting system – where different labels let you know each message’s importance level.

Depending on how many emails you receive, this might be a daily task. If you get fewer messages, opt for a few times a week instead. No matter the frequency, however, go through each message and take care of it then and there. Delete, highlight, and answer. This will also take only a few minutes when it’s done on a regular basis. Following through with such a method is the only way to keep your inbox in control … and keep it from racking up thousands of unread messages at a time.


No trick to it, simply keep your email tidy by checking and following up on a regular basis. It’s one of the easiest ways to work toward an organized working schedule.