I’ve got well over 400 emails still lingering in Gmail, and I’m a really dedicated email deleter. I’ve got some ideas on hacking this up to make it easier to deal with. This requires Google Calendar to be used by you as well.

Prework

  • Set up Google Calendar, and make sure you turn on email alerts with a pointer back to Gmail.
  • In Gmail, make a label called “xxdel” or something to say that you MIGHT eventually delete this mail.
  • Make a “reference” label for things that you need or want to keep in your inbox indefinitely.

Workflow

  • Set up every-other or every-three day appointments in Google Calendar to prune your mailbox.
  • Signup pages for websites and such- archive right away.
  • Email requiring follow-up but not immediately- use the star.
  • Label emails you’re not sure you need for any reason with your “xxdel” label.
  • While in those emails, pick the oldest one, and from that mail message, select Add Event Details (right under the subject line to the far right of the form), and set it up as “Review xxdel” with a date of 30 days from now.
  • Set up a “Review ‘reference’” meeting, too, for the same event.
  • Delete anything that doesn’t follow those criteria. Wait a week, and see if there’s any impact. If not, keep doing that.

With Google telling you all the time why it’s so great to have a mega mailbox, it’s hard to see why mailbox pruning is a good plan. But because Google flatly refuses to add the “sort by date” type functions of most mail software, search is restricted to filter and label views, as well as the in-mail search capabilitiies. Keeping your inbux fairly pruned will be a great way to keep noise out of your inbox, improve search speeds (within your mail), and help unclutter your head a bit.

How would YOU hack this up better? What’s YOUR plan? Or can you recommend any “modules” to add to the idea? Tell us about them in Comments, or through our wiki.

–Chris Brogan writes about self-improvement and creativity at [chrisbrogan.com]. He’s helping organize PodCamp Boston, and promises the next installment of the Life Hack Podcast fairly shortly.

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