Email is an old-new treat for many seniors. While it’s not really new in the technological world, for those of us who had to wait days or even weeks for a response to a handwritten letter, it seems like a miracle. We sit down at a computer, type a few lines and hit a button. Instantly, our thoughts and well-wishes are jetted across the country or across the world. It’s fun to read jokes, look at pictures and photos and keep up with conversations on favorite social media sites, but email can become a time-consumer, keeping us at the computer far longer than we intended. An inbox with hundreds of emails waiting to be read or dealt with is depressing and daunting. The trick is to tame the email beast.
If you’ve let your email stack u p higher than the cyber version of the Empire State Building, go to the very last page. This contains the oldest email. Delete any that are no longer relevant – the Christmas wishes from the family that lived next door four years ago, expired coupons and the like. If you want to save an email address, copy and paste it into your address book with the name of its owner. Don’t hold a spot in your inbox to save an email address.
You’ll be left with information you wish to keep. Like our old paper mail, it’s time to file. Most email servers have a system for saving important information. Yahoo has a literal ‘file’ system where users can name a folder and save items to it with the click of a button. Gmail has a similar feature, as do all reputable email sites. Create folders that will best accommodate your email habits and put things away. Once the last page of your inbox is empty, move forward one and repeat the process.
A sizable inbox accumulation probably cannot be cleaned out in one sitting. Set a goal of keeping the new email current and eliminating one ‘back page’ every two or three days. When your email box is current, keep it that way.
When you open your inbox in the morning, face it with one goal – read and either delete, respond (and then delete), archive every message there.
Mentally divide your email into three groups: light reading, business and important personal information. Tackle it in that order.
Light reading might be a joke from a friend or a status update from your grandchild on Facebook. These emails are easy to respond to and delete. Type a quick comment and eliminate the message. It doesn’t cut off the flow of communication; more emails will still land in your box. It simply eliminates the growing stack of emails you will never read again.
Business email, like important personal email, should be evaluated in a timely manner. If the email contains an important date, open the calendar feature of your email provider and add it in the appropriate box. If you operate off of a day planner or wall calendar, jot the date and event there immediately. Those big wall calendars come off the wall and can be replaced daily, if needed. Once you’ve done that, delete any emails that you no longer need.
Print coupons or recipes immediately. They will not help you while sitting inside your computer. Place the recipes in your file box or recipe book and coupons in your stash every day to keep them from stacking up or expiring before you can use them.
Email sites contain features to make our lives easier. All have some method of saving emails you want to reference later. ‘Yahoo!’ has a literal electronic filing system where users create folders to hold email they want to reference at a later date. Gmail has a similar function. No email site wants to be outdone by the others, so read the ‘help’ or ‘how to’ section of your favorite email provider to find out how to save on their site. Make the folder names as specific or generic as you want them to be.
By keeping your inbox current, email never becomes ‘too much’ to deal with. Saving important information and deleting everything else will allow you the freedom of checking email without pangs of guilt or despair. Take control of your inbox!