Jan-Lukas Else

Thoughts of an IT expert

5 Easy Tips to Make Emails Painless - Minimalism begins with a clean inbox

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⚠️ This entry is already over one year old. It may no longer be up to date. Opinions may have changed. When I wrote this post, I was only 18 years old!

How do you make sure that opening the mailbox is not painful and associated with negative emotions? How do I manage not to get knocked out by the mountain of work that my email account reminds me of? Here are some tips from my own experience for better email management:

Unsubscribe from this stupid newsletter

I almost always get a crisis when I see how many emails others have in their mailbox with the words “special offer”. All these emails that are accidentally subscribed to during online shopping and then arrive weekly, if not daily, and slowly but surely fill in the mailbox because they are not unsubscribed.

Then I always think to myself: click on this stupid email and either read it or unsubscribe it, but don’t let your mailbox fill up with such junk mails.

I have a strict attitude to this. I’m not so much looking for tidiness in the rest of my life, but my mailbox should be nice and clean. Any newsletter that I either don’t want to receive at all, because I just don’t care, or which I don’t read anymore after the second reception, I will unsubscribe. Consistently. Every fucking newsletter.

And the same goes for emails sent to me by the social networks I’m logged in to. If there is an option to disable email sending, I configure it accordingly.

Delete that spam mail

Beside newsletters there is a second email plague: Spam. In order to enable other people on the Internet to contact you, or because of German laws, you may find your own email address on the Internet. Special web crawlers are used to find email addresses that are then sold to dubious people and the owners of the email addresses are then annoyed by them with spam and phishing emails.

No, I’m not going to pick up those promised $20 million from Nigeria!

Against spam it only helps to check the spam settings of the email provider and to train the filter by strict marking of spam mails. In case of very stubborn spam, it may also be advisable to create an extra email rule for automatic deletion.

As I pay special attention to keeping my email management tidy, I can’t bear it when the spam folder fills up in my mailbox. When I discover that there are new emails there, I always delete them immediately.

Create folders & rules

Due to the cancellation of annoying newsletters, the deactivation of distracting social media emails and the sorting out of spam, even fewer emails arrive at all, so that it is now possible to focus on the other, more important emails.

Most email providers have two features that most likely don’t use many of them. Folders and Rules. But how are they supposed to help make emails less painful?

Structure and automation!

Thanks to the folders, it is possible to sort letters or mails, just like with slip of paper drawers on a desk, in order to process them systematically. In concrete terms, this means that all (interesting) newsletters will be placed in one folder, emails from social media (for example, Medium notifications) will be placed in another, private emails will be placed in another, and so on.

Rules can now automate the whole sorting process (or deleting spam), because while at first glance it may seem to someone inexperienced to create all the rules at first glance, it pays off again later, as this saves a lot of click work over time.

So it is also possible, for example, to activate notifications only for certain emails, because I read newsletters, for example, when I really have the time and desire to do so due to the fact that it does not have to be done immediately.

How the creation of rules looks like for each provider has to be looked up in corresponding documentation, but most of them offer intuitive interfaces.

There’s an email archive

In addition to the newsletters that I often see in other people’s mailboxes, I also notice that many people don’t seem to know that there is such a thing as an email archive, a folder for archiving emails.

If there is one, why is it never used?!

In my opinion, the ability to archive emails is a very effective way to keep order in your inbox and keep track of everything. After all, there is sometimes an email that you would like to go back to, or something else that requires an answer, but those will quickly go down in the mass of emails that are actually already done. It is helpful to archive mails directly as soon as they are completed.

In this way, the inbox can also serve as a todo list and keeping one separately is obsolete. And what could be nicer if the last email is archived at the end of the day and the email program shows that the inbox is empty? Time to go home!

Procrastinate less

And now a last tip, which is rather less technical…

There are so many emails, where it’s enough to send a short answer, confirm something or any other small thing that’s actually done quickly, but it gets postponed and every time you look in the mailbox you realize that there’s something else to do.

My tip: Do it as soon as possible and don’t postpone it!

Because at some point the email has to be dealt with, because it doesn’t disappear by ignoring. And isn’t there a better feeling in general when you know that everything has been completed?


I also don’t have the perfect mailbox, the perfect order of my emails and the perfect workflow in this respect. But I would know theoretically how it works and when I publish it here, it gives me a bit of a conscience that I should really stick to it. And improvements do not happen overnight, often it is small steps in the right direction that lead to the goal.

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Jan-Lukas Else
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