How to Chop Down a 20,000 Email Inbox to Zero in 30 Minutes

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How to Chop Down a 20,000 Email Inbox to Zero in 30 Minutes

It’s incredibly simple to acquire too many emails between promotions, newsletters, alerts, and everything else that comes pouring into your inbox every day. If you don’t have time to deal with it, you may find yourself with an inbox containing 20 to 30 thousand messages.

You have crucial messages somewhere in there that you don’t want to lose. But how can you get rid of the clutter without drowning the infant in the process?

If you follow the steps indicated in this post, you should be able to get to inbox zero in at least 30 minutes. A maximum of one hour. Do you want to give it a shot? Follow along with your clogged inbox.

The Bloated Gmail Inbox

Introducing, the inbox of a very busy person.

That’s correct. There are about 20,000 unopened email messages. Those are merely the ones that have yet to be read. Before beginning this procedure, the overall size of my email account was approaching 35,000 messages.

So, the first thing to do is chop off the low hanging fruit.

Toss Out the Trash

It should go without saying that you should throw out the garbage often, not just at home but also in your Gmail inbox.

Click the Trash icon on the left navigation bar, then the “select all” box at the top of the message list, and finally the “All conversations” link shown before the first email.

Then click on Delete Forever.

After that, go after Gmail spam. Click the Spam link in the navigation bar, then click “Delete all spam messages now.”

Doesn’t it feel good? We haven’t made much of a mark in the inbox yet, but it’s a nice sensation to start cleaning your email after taking out the garbage.

Now for the next level of low hanging fruit.

Related: How to Archive Emails in Outlook

If you’re using Google’s default Gmail inbox, you’ll see Social and Promotion tabs near the top.

Click on each of them, then scroll down the list to check for high numbers of duplicates.

These are the people that are always flooding your email.

When you discover them, open the email and look for the Unsubscribe link towards the top or bottom.

Examine the first several pages of Social and Promotion postings for big groupings of duplicates. Simply cleaning up your email newsletters can significantly minimize the volume of email that enters your inbox each day.

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Spending too much time on this is a waste of time since there are greater fish to fry right now. After you finish reading this post, you should read Sandy’s essay on controlling Gmail inbox anxiety to avoid getting into this situation again.

Once you’ve unsubscribed from the most frequent emails, return to the top of the page and click on the “Select all discussions” option.

Click the trash icon to delete them all.

Rep the procedure on the Promotions tab. By the time you’ve finished removing all of them, you’ve probably reduced your inbox by a few thousand.

And you’re only getting warmed up.

Backup and Delete Labeled Emails

I used to be a member of a team that did web investigations. During my stay there, I received a few thousand emails, all of which were labeled with the incoming, connected email address’s unique Gmail label.

I never bothered to delete any of those emails once the address closed in 2015.

Years ago, you most certainly developed a slew of labels. Perhaps you even automated the procedure by using incoming email filters. All of those emails are just taking up space.

You cannot just delete tagged emails in bulk since they were labeled for a purpose. Perhaps they include years of study, or they are a historical archive of work you completed that you don’t want to lose.

Back Up Important Labeled Emails

Fortunately, using Google’s account export option, you can easily backup all of those emails in bulk.

For each service in your Google account, Google provides a Download Your Data page.

Click the Manage Archives link, then the Create New Archive button.

To deselect all accounts, scroll down to your list of accounts and click Select None.

Scroll down to your Gmail account and toggle the option to enable just that service.

Click the dropdown arrow, and click on Select labels.

Select all of the labels you’ve generated in your Gmail account that you wish to make a complete backup of.

You may choose the compressed file format and the maximum archive size from the list.

Finally, click the Create Archive button.

Google will notify you through email that it has begun taking your archive. It might take a few hours or even a day, but you’ll get an email when the archive is available to download. The download link will be included in the email.

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After you’ve downloaded and stored your email archive somewhere secure, you may begin deleting tagged emails.

Delete Labeled Emails and Labels

Back in your Gmail inbox, click on each label to see the emails, then pick All from the drop-down menu.

Remember to select all conversations like you did before.

Click the trash icon to delete all of those emails.

If you’re fortunate, you’ll come across labels containing thousands of emails that you can now delete from your inbox since you have a backup.

After you’ve gone through all of the emails, don’t forget to erase all of the old labels. Simply choose Remove label from the list from the dropdown menu on the right side of the label name.

You should have greatly reduced the size of your inbox by this time. But let us not be shy. We still have a few tricks in our sleeves.

Delete Old Emails

If you have tens of thousands of emails, chances are that even emails that were critical four or five years ago aren’t as vital now.

Now is the time to go deep and clean house. Let’s get rid of those out-of-date emails.

Simply use “older than:2y” in the Gmail search box to do this. You may specify your own time limit by setting 2 to the number of years of email you wish to save.

Just bear in mind that no matter how many emails you “save,” you’ll have to comb through them in the end to find the really essential ones. As a result, keep this period as short as possible.

Select Allemails, then all chats, and finally the Trash button, as you’ve been doing all along.

After that, your tens of thousands of emails should be reduced to the single thousands at this stage.

At this stage, it’s time to clear up the remaining debris in a more selective manner.

Clean, Sort, and Organize

To begin, consider that any email you haven’t opened in the last several weeks is unlikely to be opened again.

You may get rid of them fast by scanning for any unopened emails older than 10 days.

In the search field, just type “is:unread older_than:10d”.

Select and delete all of those listed emails.

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Another method for further reducing the remaining email list is to look for common spam or promotional subject lines. You may accomplish this by searching for terms such as “subject: bargain,” “subject: gift,” or “subject: final opportunity.”

Every search should yield more than 100 emails at a time. Simply keep wiping them out.

Finish Off Your Inbox

Your mountain of tens of thousands of emails should now be reduced to a much more manageable size. You’ve pared down your inbox to primarily emails that are significant to you and that you may wish to preserve.

After that, begin browsing through the remaining emails. When you find critical emails that you want to save, just drag them to the labels you’ve set for them (or create new labels if they don’t already exist).

This may seem to be a tedious task, but visually examining a page of emails at a time should only yield a handful that you wish to save. Then you may pick and delete all of the emails on that page. This will delete around 50 emails at a time.

Remember to open the email and click the dropdown arrow next to the reply button anytime you spot a repeat sender. Select “Filter messages like this” from the list.

Then select all and remove the corresponding email list that appears.

You’ll get that list of slightly over 1,000 emails down to that amazing inbox zero in no time by categorizing, filtering, and removing large groups of emails.

It’s a great feeling to get that “empty” letter in your mailbox, particularly after years of not seeing it!

Don’t Let the Beast Grow

Now that you’ve finally gotten that colossal beast of an inbox under control, it’s critical to avoid it from ballooning any further. The easiest way to do this is to familiarize yourself with all of the functions available in Gmail for keeping things organized and simplified.

You may learn about these capabilities in our Gmail Power User Guide and never have to go through this procedure again.

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