It's hard to believe that 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of email. The technology has now become an integral part of daily life, but for many of us, this has meant an inbox overflowing with messages.
Whichever email provider you're using, your inbox could probably do with tidying up. The key to this task is to be systematic and move quickly. Review, but don't labour over all the emails or it will take longer than necessary and give you reason not to file or delete them.
Below, we run through some simple ways to get the job done. Plus, we have some bonus tips on dealing with a hectic Gmail inbox.
There are good reasons to save certain emails, whether it's meaningful messages, login details or things you refer to regularly. However, if you have sensitive information such as passwords and registrations, consider storing those safely in a password manager.
A password manager acts as a vault that contains details for your online accounts. You can only open up that folder with a single master password. Some password managers, including LastPass (shown below), will allow you to share information with trusted friends and family, which is handy if you're managing an account that's used by several people.
If you want to delete several emails related to the same topic, type a keyword into your search bar at the top of your inbox. Once the results are generated, you can select multiple emails before you hit the Deletebutton.
Most email clients will let you fine-tune your search. In Outlook (on desktop), click the down arrow to the right of your search bar. You can choose to search for a keyword in a specific folder, or add in more than one keyword. This advanced view also lets you specify the dates of the emails you want to sift through.
In Gmail (on desktop), click the Show search options button to the right of the search bar. From here, you can filter the results by keywords or date received.
Facebook, Twitter and many other web services want to send you notifications of what's happening or what you've missed - they do this to encourage you to engage more with the platform, or to lure you back if you've drifted away.
To deal with your Facebook notifications, click the arrow in the top-right, then select Settings & Privacy > Settings > Notifications on the left and scroll down and select Email. Click Only about your account (shown below) to limit all except the important security and privacy alerts.
You can repeat this process on other platforms such as Instagram and Twitter by going into the settings menu and following the steps to turn off notifications. Note that, for your own protection, emails related to security alerts can't be turned off.
You can easily cut down on inbox clutter by getting your emails to file themselves automatically. Once you've set this up, you won't need to manually drag emails into folders. Each email program will have its own steps to create rules.
In Apple Mail, go to Mail > Preferences > Rules to create rules that will identify email according to a range of criteria. These will then be sorted into designated folders.
In Outlook, right-click on a message and select Rules and choose the parameters. You need to already have folders set up.
In Gmail (desktop), click Show search options (the button at the bottom right) in the Search bar and set your preferred parameters. You can create a filter for emails from a specific person or retailer, or create a filter for emails using the words 'your order', for example. Click Create filter. On the next window, you can choose a range of actions from marking as read and forwarding to applying a label (Gmail's equivalent to folders), which can be an existing label or one you create then.
If you're short on time but still want to take steps to tidy up your inbox, enlisting the help of a third-party app might be the way to go.
One example is , which is a service that uses algorithms to identify and organise emails. Once it's set up with your Gmail, Outlook or Yahoo account, it can delete thousands of messages in a couple of clicks. Mailstrom works across a range of email platforms, and has a free trial and paid service.
Another option is , which works across Gmail, Outlook and iPhone Mail. The service is part of Boomerang, a third-party add-on for Gmail and Outlook to help with scheduling the emails you send and receive. It's free, but with paid-for extras available.
Gmail is one of the most popular free email services - here are some tips to help you manage your Google inbox:
Additional reporting by Tom Morgan.