Caveat: Email systems are very personal! My system may not be appropriate for you. Read thru this article as an example of what can be done, not a set of rules to follow.
I use Gmail as my universal inbox. ALL my mail is collected there. Gmail automatically sorts my mail into 3 categories: Primary, Social, Promotions, and Updates. It’s been doing this for a couple years now and it does a really good job of recognizing the different content. I know that, if I delete emails in the Social category – I’m not deleting anything in Facebook, Google+, RVillage, LinkedIn, etc. I’m just deleting the emails that notify me of new content there. It doesn’t take long for the Social category to build up. I try to clean it out regularly, but it still had built to 601 messages. The Updates category had 2,847 and Promotions had 2,392. Following the steps below, I deleted them all in just a few minutes.
The more my email messages build up, the more messages I miss. I recently watched Steve Dotto’s webinar on Email Overload, and got motivated to do some inbox cleaning. It’s time to get out the hatchet!
Delete All Email in the Social and Promotions Category
You can learn how to set up your inbox with these categories by reading the official help page on Gmail Categories. Over the years, I’ve watched what Gmail automatically categorizes and, anytime it’s wrong, I just drag the email to it’s proper category. It’s gotten to the point that Gmail is near perfect in sorting my mail. I am confident there is nothing in my Social or Promotions category that can’t be deleted.
- Click on the Social Category Tab
- Click the checkbox at the top left – that will select all the messages currently visible (usually 25)
- Notice the message that appears at the top in a light yellow box ‘ All 25 conversations on this page are selected. Select all 601 conversations in Social.
- Click the link to “Select all 601 conversations …”
- Click the trashcan. BOOM! The entire category of Social messages is EMPTY. They will remain in your Trash for 30 days, then gone forever.
Read more about how Delete works in Gmail in the official help page: Delete or recover deleted Gmail messages.
Repeat the steps above for the Promotions Category.
Archive All Email in the Primary Category
To learn about Archiving messages with Gmail, see the official help page: Archive or Mute Gmail messages.
The only emails I have left are in the Primary category. I really should look at all of them, respond to the important ones, manually delete the ones I don’t need, archive the ones that I’m done with but want to keep forever. But right now, I am just determined to have an empty inbox! I can follow the same steps as above, just changing the last step. Instead of clicking the trashcan to delete – I click the archive button. Boom! My inbox is empty!
Archive means the messages are gone from my Inbox, but they are still stored in Gmail and I can search for something at any time. For example, as we travel the country we present our seminars at RV Parks, clubs, and senior centers. It might be many years before we’re in that area again and I want to find the emails from our last visit. For example, as we’re planning a trip in Oregon, I may remember that we did some seminars in Albany – that’s all I remember! I’d like to contact whoever that was and let them know when we’ll be in the area. I can search Gmail for “Albany” and it comes up with 47 emails containing the word “Albany” going back to 2010! It only takes a minute looking at those 47 emails to find the one I need.
Your Important Emails – Starred
To learn about starring emails, see the official help page: Star emails in Gmail. There is also an Importance marker that is an automatic thing, see the official help page: Importance marker in Gmail.
When I see an email that I need to respond to, I mark it with a Star. At any time I can see those messages marked with a star by clicking on the link in the left sidebar for Starred. Even if they’re Archived, they will still show up as Starred. That’s my real inbox! Those are the emails I need to handle. Everything else is empty!