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  • Writer's pictureAbigail Ann

Cleaning Out Emails & Quieting Notifications (Simplifying Your Phone)

Updated: Mar 5

Quieting all the noise can be challenging. Most of us have multiple social media accounts, multiple email addresses and so many notifications are constantly popping up on our phones. It can be overwhelming just picking up our phones in the morning. I've worked with multiple clients that have 15,000 to over 100,000 unopened emails. And that's just their email. Deep down we all want to feel like we're doing our best to keep up with everything, but when that little red dot appears next to a bunch of apps it can seem overwhelming. (This next part is all about email, so if you've got that figured out scroll down to "What about the rest of my phone?")

How to Clean Out My Email

Recently, I was with a client that had over 15,000 unopened emails. I assumed all of these hadn't come through this year. Come to find out these emails dated back to 2013. We decided to tackle this head on and ended up sifting through them all in less than an hour. Today I'm going to talk through how we simplified her email and what other steps we can take to simplify the rest of our phones.

First, we had to figure out if the email notifications were coming through to one email or if there were multiple accounts we needed to work on. Come to find out there were 6 different accounts signed in, but one in particular had the most with 10,000 unopened. I asked her if she would be okay if I went in and marked every email as "read" except those that came through this month. She said she loved that idea! Thankfully Google has a way to mark batches of 100 at a time so it doesn't take as long as you'd think.

We signed into on a laptop since it's so much easier to clean email out on the computer instead of a phone. Not only does it let you mark batches of multiple emails it even categorizes what's a "social email" or "promotional email".

Primary shows all your emails in one place, but the Social and Promotions tab allows you to see emails that are from a social media account or a company. Social can be anything from Facebook notifications, to LinkedIn notifications, Instagram... you name it. Promotions could be emails from company's updating you on their most recent sale. There are arrows on the top right just above the Social and Promotions tab that allow you to sift back into older emails. This is where the magic happens.

Click the Social or Promotions tab, then select the arrow to the top right and click it until it takes you to last months emails. (see picture above) Next, click the check box on the top left, that will select all the emails on that page, then you can click the little envelope icon. When you hover over the envelope icon it will say "Mark as Read". When you click this it will mark every checked email as read. Now you can use the arrows to click back further, use the check box to check them all, and mark as read. Do this for all your emails except for this months emails. That way you can take care of what's current.

As you sift through old emails if you see something that you forgot to take care of you can "star" that email. This will automatically put those emails into a "Starred" folder created by Google. That folder shows up right underneath where it says "Inbox".

No matter how many emails you have in your Inbox this is a great place to start. It can seem counter productive to mark the emails as read since you're not actually reading them, but having a clean slate when you need to check your email again will give you so much more peace next time.

How to Organize My Email

How do we prevent this from happening in the future? Next time you check your email and you see one pop up from someone or a company you don't wish to receive emails from anymore just scroll to the bottom of the email and click "unsubscribe". This will prevent future emails from coming in and will help you keep your inbox cleaner in the future!

How to Manage Phone Notifications

When it comes to quieting the noise on our phones there are SO MANY ways to go about this. The first thing to do is ask yourself, "Why do I want to simplify my phone? Am I feeling overwhelmed or frustrated by it? What is causing these feelings?" This may seem like a silly question, but for me personally I can't stand being accessible to people 24/7. I want to be able to sit down and write, read a book, work on a design project, and not feeling like I'm ignoring everyone. Here are a few things that have helped me overcome this.

1. Turn off ALL Notifications that Don't Come from a Person

First, I have turned off all notifications unless they are from a person. If you have an iPhone open up Settings, then Notifications this will show you every app on your phone. Scroll through your list of apps and find one you don't want to get notifications from. Occasionally, I like to play pool on my phone, but I don't want to get ANY notifications from the app. So, I slide off the "Allow Notifications" completely.

Now, let's say you don't mind notifications for an app, but you hate the little red dot that pops up next to the app on your home screen. I personally cannot stand that. It makes me feel like I need to open the app. (Which is exactly why they put it there insert rolling eyes emoji lol) That little red dot is called a "Badge" and you can turn just that off if you like.

2. Managing Nighttime Notifications

Another great hack is Do Not Disturb. On an iPhone you can add people to your Favorites in the Phone app and when your phone is on Do Not Disturb anyone that calls you that is in your favorites will come through, but everyone else outside of your favorites will be silenced. This feature is MY FAVORITE. I'm very serious about getting a good nights sleep, but if my brothers, my mom, or my best friend needed me I would be there for them at 3am, no questions asked!

On the flip side... if I get a robot call about my car's extended warranty at 3am I just might want to throw my phone out the window! I'm serious about my sleep ;) So how do you set this up? First, open your phone app and click Favorites on the bottom left, you'll see a plus sign on the top left, when you click that you can choose who you want listed in your favorites. After you finish that head over to Settings, then Do Not Disturb, flip on the Scheduled option and choose what time you want to stop getting calls and notifications. Scroll down a bit further and make sure next to "Allow Calls From" it says "Favorites".

3. Simplifying Facebook Notifications

Let's talk social media. I use to get notifications from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, Youtube, TikTok.... the list goes on. Now I only get a notification if it's directly from someone. Since I run my business mainly through Facebook and Instagram it was difficult to set boundaries with those. I personally don't mind getting the notifications while I'm on the phone, but I don't want them popping up on my lock screen when I'm busy doing other things. So for that app I have notifications set only for banners, which is just the little drop down that comes up on the top of my screen while I'm on the phone. Facebook messenger notifications are completely off. I was hesitant to turn it off completely, but the Facebook app notifies me so I rarely miss one. Why have two apps reminding you of the same thing?

Update from March 2024: I've since deleted Facebook and only get on it if I'm on my computer. Nowadays, I don't rely on social media to generate business so I stay in and out, but rarely check it! The best way to reach me now is via email or text/calling.

4. Simplifying Instagram Notifications

Instagram is an entirely different ball game. I use to get notifications that people who hadn't posted in a while just posted, or that someone commented on a photo I posted, or commented on a photo I was tagged in... this is all noise. You shouldn't have to stop everything you're doing to see what someone said in their comment on your picture or see what someone posted when they haven't posted in a while. (It's important to remember that these platforms are businesses. They make money through advertising, so the longer they can keep you on the app, the more money they make. It's 'free' for everyone to use, but we pay a heavy price with all the time we waste on them, myself included!) I promise, you won't even miss the notifications once you turn them off.

Where are these settings at? They're not in iPhone settings, they're actually within the Instagram app. Open Instagram, go to your profile, then click the three lines on the top right, choose Settings, then Notifications, then Posts, Stories, and Comments and check "off" for all of these. Go back one page and select Following and Followers, select off for all of these. Go back and do the same for the rest of the sections.

As far as all the other apps, I simply have notifications turned off for all of them. If you open the app you will see all the notifications from them. No need to let them interrupt your whole day, all day long!

Changing these few things has made staying focused so much easier! Sometimes I'll turn on Do Not Disturb randomly in the middle of the day if I feel like I can't focus and I just need to drown out the noise. Especially in the morning if I wake up late, but I still want to have my quiet time. I'll set a timer for 30min., open my Bible, and turn on Do Not Disturb and pretend I have zero responsibilities. It sounds funny, but even allowing yourself 30 minutes of quiet with no distractions can bring so much peace! I would love to hear how this helps you and as always if you have any other ideas about simplifying your phone or tips and tricks you've tried that have worked I would love to hear them!


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