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How to Clean Up Your Inbox, Once and For All

Getting control over your inbox may seem like a challenge, but it makes the da

Junk mail and excessive amounts of messages plague every finance executive's inbox. Because many executives feel like they don't have the time to fully get rid of these emails, they often just ignore or delete them. However, failing to take any steps to eliminate spam and unnecessary messages clogs up an inbox even more over time, results in important messages being buried and makes it difficult to find an older email.

Most likely, many CFOs find a great deal of their emails aren't applicable to work at all. In fact, a late 2012 survey by digital strategy company Blue Kangaroo revealed that junk marketing emails account for more than half the new messages received by 44 percent of Americans. Dealing with these messages wastes valuable resources — 48 percent of respondents thought looking through these messages was "a time-consuming chore."

Consider your own inbox: How many industry newsletters have you subscribed to, only to promptly delete them every morning? It's likely everyone at your company has a similar problem. Given the length of time it takes just one person to sort through their inbox each day, determine what is necessary and what isn't and then delete the junk, a company could find itself losing hours of productivity per day.

• Determine if you really need to sign up for another mailing list. While it's be useful to stay on top of industry news by signing up for some newsletters, subscribing to everything is asking for inbox trouble. If you agree to accept emails from every organization, you're bound to wind up with too much marketing junk mail. Think twice before you sign up for anything and unsubscribe from newsletters you never read.

• Be aware of where your email address is posted. If your corporate email address can be found on the web, you may receive more junk mail than others within your company. Consider using a different email address when posting publicly on forums or industry websites to reduce the amount of unnecessary emails you'll receive if spammers get a hold of the account. 

Learn How to Better Manage the Emails You Need
Even if you manage to get rid of most of the spam you receive every day, it's still likely you're getting dozens — if not hundreds — of emails per day from clients, salespeople and managers about business concerns. Dealing with these messages can be overwhelming, especially if you don't have a system in place to keep track of what's been taken care of and which clients are still in need of assistance. Play around and try out a new system so that you can spend less time digging through emails.

• Create a filter or folder system. You don't have to be tech-savvy to set up some filters that will sort your email automatically. If you use Google's email service, use filters to label emails from certain clients or coworkers and, if you wish, even skip your inbox entirely. If your corporation uses Outlook, you can set up rules to help you manage messages. These options will automatically sort emails and allow your inbox to stay free from clutter. If you can't easily determine how to manage emails the way you'd like, ask the corporate IT department for guidance.

• Focus on your inbox. Use your inbox as a running to-do list. Messages in this space should be ones you have not yet dealt with or need your response. File away all other messages, either putting them in a folder or deleting them. Another option, for Gmail users who don't like to use folders or labels, it the Priority Inbox. By marking significant communications as important regularly, you'll tailor your account to send significant or important messages to this folder. Google also takes into account those you email most often and may begin treating these contacts as important and placing their messages in this alternative folder. 

• Determine if it's really necessary for you to be in on certain communications. While you'll want visibility into how operations are running, that doesn't mean teams need to copy you on every email they send. If you're being copied on too many unnecessary messages, consider asking employees to include you only if they think you absolutely need the information in an email.

• Don't mix work and personal accounts. You're not killing two birds with one stone by connecting your personal and professional accounts. Rather, you're creating more unnecessary clutter. Separate business communications from other messages, and if you only rely solely on your company account, it's time to create a separate address for personal communication, deals emails and newsletters.