Most people receive much more email than they want or need. If you've read our guide on customizing Outlook for better productivity, you know that reducing distractions is one of the most important ways handle email more efficiently.
Let's discuss ways to reduce the amount of email you receive.
1. Use the Built-in Unsubscribe Functions
Chances are that a lot of the noise in your email inbox comes from automated sale ads, website updates, and more. You may have signed up for these from a store you were interested in, or maybe it signed you up automatically when you created an account with that site. While these types of messages can be useful, usually they're just annoying.
Instead of deleting email from these sources constantly, you should unsubscribe to stop getting it altogether. But it's wise to be careful about how you unsubscribe. Most automated emails have an unsubscribe button at the bottom. If you're dealing with an honorable company, clicking this should take your address off their list.
But if the email is from a shadier source, that unsubscribe link could be dangerous. In the worst cases, it could lead to a site that hosts malware. In less extreme instances, the button instead confirms to a spammer that your email address is active. This is a sign for them to send you more spam.
Thus, when you want to unsubscribe, look for the built-in Unsubscribe link in your email provider. We'll show two here; other email providers might also provide this functionality.
In Outlook, click the Unsubscribe banner below the sender name and then click Block sender to stop getting emails from them.
In Gmail, you'll see the Unsubscribe link next to the sender name. Click that, then choose Unsubscribe in the resulting prompt.
2. Use Filters
If your problem doesn't come from automated emails, you can use filters to redirect some of the incoming messages you get. Every modern email service allows you to apply rules to incoming messages.
For example, you could create a filter to send all messages where you're not the primary recipient to their own folder. Or you could have shipping confirmation emails skip your inbox. Chances are that you can move any messages that clog up your inbox and that aren't critically important elsewhere without worry.
These filters can keep your inbox as a place where only important messages that need your attention reside. Everything else can wait.
3. Be Careful About Providing Your Email Address
These days websites and services ask for your email all the time. You'll be asked for your email address every time you sign up for a website, request a white paper, or fill out a form.
Since these types of services often share your email address with other parties, you should be selective about who you provide your email address to. Don't provide it unless you trust the entity asking for it. If you have to fill out lots of forms that require your email address, consider setting up a secondary address that you only use for these purposes.
4. Block Unwanted Senders
If an email sender provides you with no way to unsubscribe from a message, you can still send them to your junk mail.
In Outlook, right-click a message you're not interested in and choose Junk > Block Sender. This will send the message to your Junk Email folder and keeps you from seeing future messages from that address.
While you're tweaking your Outlook junk mail options, it's a good idea to enable a few more settings to avoid good email being marked as spam. Right-click any message and select Junk > Junk E-mail Options to open a dialogue box. Click the Safe Senders tab, and you'll see a list of contacts that you've set to never block as junk.
On this tab, you'll see two check boxes below: Also trust email from my Contacts and Automatically add people I email to the Safe Senders List. It's a good idea to check both of these, as they'll prevent messages you want to receive from going into the junk folder accidentally. If you email someone or have them on your contact list, chances are that you want to see email from them.
For Gmail, open a message and click the Report Spam button (it looks like a stop sign with an exclamation point inside). This will move the message to your Spam folder and do the same for future messages from that sender. If you want to, you can completely block that sender by clicking the dropdown arrow to the right of the message and choosing Block <Name>.
5. Send Less Email
This is a non-technical answer, but many times, you receive email because you've sent email. Thus, the secret to reducing your incoming mail could be as simple as sending less email.
You'll find many ways to achieve this. Try not to copy more people on an email than needed, as that increases your chance of receiving extra responses. Keep your emails short and succinct so recipients have less reason to respond and ask you questions. Consider discussing an issue over the phone or in person instead of emailing, whenever possible.
Our email formatting tips for better communication will help with this.
Now you know five easy ways to receive less email. Cleaning your inbox will help you keep your sanity when working with email. It's such a relief!