5 Reasons Why Bloggers Should Use a Never Publish Folder

As a blogger, you are ultimately going to commit your writing to your CMS (content management system) at some point. Many bloggers write straight into the editor and then may either publish the work or leave it in draft for a time.

As you grow as a blogger it becomes more important to think about the big picture. The big picture consists of, but is not limited to:

 

  • Niche
  • Direction
  • Brand
  • Community
  • Values

 

When you start making account for all of this, you may start to drive your drafting back into a Word Document, Pages, an Email or a Notepad file.

Placing your work in compartmentalised folders allows you to organise what you are producing.

As a blogger you will realise that keeping a schedule is hard and that you have to ‘keep the meat filling the sausage’. It can be tough at times and I am no stranger to the ups and downs of trying to maintain a schedule.

Down to the 5 reasons of why to keep that all important ‘Never Publish’ folder

Reason 1: Eliminating Poor Quality

Sometimes you are not on your ‘A’ game. It is inevitable that you are going to reach a point of poor quality.

Green/Newbie bloggers do push out a lot of garbage along with their good posts in the first year of blogging. It is part of wearing the T-Shirt. You have to experiment in order to understand what your audience likes best out of the boundaries of what you are covering. Over-posting is common in order for you to gain traction with an audience, a lot of that hard work will be wiped away because certain articles just don’t cover the depth that the audience needs to find satisfying. You should be able to get a sense of what your audience reacts to and what they find uninspiring.

 

Reason 2: Eliminating Jumping on the Band Wagon

gellinger-band-wagon

It is dangerous to jump on the band wagon. You have to know what you are talking about. The other major issue with the band wagon is that most of the time, it was somebody else who creatively thought to ask the questions and somebody other than you to provide the answers. You could be late to the party, so late that you don’t get any warmth from what you’ve written.

There are those entrepreneurs who have made a fortune by making clones of popular services. Nothing is immune from reverse engineering. You’ll find that if you strike on something good, you will get a competitor analyse it before too long. That shouldn’t put you off trying though. It is normally the person who was best able to make something work first who gets the warmth from it. Everyone else gets an ever decreasing share of that warmth.

What you could end up with if you straight copy is a bland experience, ultimately forgettable to your audience.

Forget following the masses. Be original.

 

Reason 3: Avoid “Jumping The Shark”

fonzie_jumps_the_shark“Jumping the Shark” is a pop culture reference; it dates back to a sitcom called Happy Days where the Fonz literally jumps a shark with a pair of water skis. The truth was that Happy Days was suffering a sustained drop in ratings and in order to keep the show ticking over the shark jump was added as a gimmick. It was seen as a departure from the show’s spirit. Such a gimmick can be cited, in more modern settings, as the point where creative evolution declines or where the style change takes it away from what made it great in the first place, a shadow of its former self.

One of the major challenges with blogging is keeping the tone and intent the same whilst moving with the times. There are periods when you write something you hope encapsulates the passion for your topic but more often than not falls flat or lands out-of-bounds for your niche. Blogging has a difficulty in that owing to ‘hypercompetition’ the boundaries of niches are much smaller than they were in the old days. You can talk about a great deal in a blog but be washed away with the masses.

It is tempting to try to seek that one post that will change your fortunes but in truth you do better when you continually tweak your everyday to make it better. It’s about leaving no weak links.

 

Reason 4: Avoiding Inflammatory Personal Digs

There is a difference between opposing viewpoints and making a personal attack. On most occasions we can be relied upon to make the right call, tread the right balance of not destroying a person entirely. Sometimes on a rare occasion our objectivity towards a person can erode beyond a point where we are rational. We can enter a state where it is likely that we will do our own self-image harm if we engage in debunks.

It is important to remember that not everybody has the same moral and ethical code that we have. We can’t be friends with everybody in life, it just doesn’t happen. It is important not to get into tit-for-tat situations because they can quickly escalate. Self-image as a blogger is quite important because many bloggers sell through the positive influence that they exude. Whilst you can sell a lot on negativity consider what gain you will receive out of an attack. Sometimes it is better to put the guns back in the holsters even if that bandit is calling you a chicken.

These provocative situations need to be kept under a lid. It is right for you to defend yourself but it is much better to do this person to person or email to email rather than involve your audience.

Reason 5: It All Acts As A Reminder To Self

The best way to prevent making mistakes is to have some form of log of the stuff you have vowed never to release. You will discover by a quick glance, the kind of situations you know you shouldn’t have gone into further detail about and it will hopefully prompt you not to make the same mistake again. Obviously it can be tough to quarantine any work indefinitely, especially after so much work has been dedicated.

If you are running off niche topic in a big way then quarantine is the best answer. You could spark negative issues by going off topic which have long-lasting effect to your audience and their satisfaction.

 

BlogPrefect’s Never Publish Folder

In over 3 years of writing I organise BlogPrefect post drafts (outside of the editor) into three buckets.

Bucket 1: Unpublished

These are the posts that are not fully fledged thoughts just yet, they are awaiting enough content to be transferable to the CMS (WordPress in my case). I try to keep this bucket’s contents small, mostly because every extra file and folder in this bucket becomes potentially wasted time. As a blogger, the less wasted time you have, the better.

Bucket 2: Published

Once the unpublished becomes published I move the drafts over into the published folder where they may sit for a time until I archive the post after it no longer drives meaningful traffic. Reviewing published posts is an important staple of blog management. Often you can find a lot of ideas from seeing the gaps in what you have written before. A lot about becoming more successful in a niche hangs on how you fill out the gaps that other bigger bloggers have left behind (the clearing in the wood).

Bucket 3: Never Publish

This metaphorical bucket is the nub of this article.

This third bucket is a sub-bucket of Bucket 1. There are certain times when I may have committed some time to writing a draft but later realise that what I am writing about may cause issues, is just not what I should be writing about or just isn’t that engaging to read for a would-be visitor.

 

At time of writing I have 5 ‘never publish’ articles sitting in this bucket. I’ll talk you through each one:

 

Don’t Upset a Hipster Geek

Sadly this was a non-relevant blog post. I belong to a science fiction group on Google+ and got into a bit of a spat with a certain individual about a piece of art (made from Lego) depicting an AT-AT walker. I am suffering some severe Star Wars fatigue, mostly from the very poor prequel quality and a massive merchandise drive. Cutting a long story short, we managed to have a civil conversation about it but we both agreed to disagree.

I wasn’t really sure how I was going to steer this article to be relevant for BlogPrefect.Com. This may have suited JackoWrites.Com better although ultimately it was a personal experience and one that you had to be there to get the full benefit from.

Word Count 1031 – First started on 26th July 2013

 

Great Expectations Legacy

This article followed another similarly titled piece. It was meant to cover in detail the issues with a game called The Sims 4. I decided to abandon this because whilst the original did well, it was off topic.

This article also came too late after the fact and there seems to be a lack of criticism web-wide on The Sims 4. You only tend to find true rants on YouTube.

Word Count 3925 – First started on 4th September 2014

 

How Not To Treat Your Customers

This was a piece on EA and Bioware, obviously as with the above post, it was not relevant to this niche but unlike the article above, I only committed 807 words to it so it wasn’t as big a loss overall. The article went into detail about how EA and Bioware made a chronic miss-step in their franchises, specifically Mass Effect which had the worst third installment. EA had also killed the Sim City franchise with a critical online only error, symptomatic of their need to greed. Many Sims fans are concerned that they are doing this to the Sims franchise as well.

Whilst a passionate article it was not suitable on BlogPrefect.Com for the audience I was trying to attract.

Word Count 807 – First started on 23rd August 2013

 

“Brian Randolph”

Brian Randolph is both a sinner and a saint.

I’ve had to change the name on this article because it was again, a personal look at someone who had been a patron on BlogPrefect.com during my stellar year.

Brian Randolph, known by another name, was a prolific responder. He spent the best part of a month replying to every article I posted during a very heavy posting month. He was the only commenter who consistently made comment on every post. In that way he was a saint.

I had deep concerns about Mr Randolph. It seemed even Enstine Muki agreed when he laid down his own scathing criticism at a number of frauds including Brian roughly two years ago (although recently he’s changed his tune). Brian was into some pretty shady business practices including a Pyramid/Ponzi scheme (rebranded as MLM).

I had started writing a praising article about him and his website but couldn’t pull the trigger. He was tainted by this MLM business. I can’t tell you too much more because if you garner too much detail you’ll know who Brian Randolph actually is. He gets around a lot.

The problem is, I like Brian. He’s a nice guy, a Buddhist with plenty of wisdom about blogging. He’s written several million words in his long blogging career and some of his books have been used by University lecturers in respectable colleges in the USA.

He still carries that taint and I don’t entirely trust him as a result. It’s why I didn’t deepen the relationship even though it may have meant “cutting my nose off to spite my face”.

Word Count 441 – First started on 6th August 2014

*If you head over to Enstine’s site at the moment you might catch a glimpse of Brian but if you come to this article in a couple of months time he may be less visible.

 

Using the Community for Help – Zero Second Bounce

As you may know by now, I love statistics. Statistical information rocks so having the opportunity to look at graphs and charts, dripping with statistical butter, makes my mouth salivate. Okay, maybe that’s a bit strong – you get the idea.

During my early first year with BlogPrefect.com I covered a lot on my statistics. Google Analytics was a favourite hangout zone for me and I would expend a long time looking at this data in intrigue.

The article felt like a bit of a stretch. The Zero Second Bounce referred to readers who had not even spent 1 second looking at my content. I later found out that GA is a bit harsher than other statistical measures in that it struck people off the list if they only viewed 1 page on entry to the site before leaving. The problem was that I was floundering on this topic because I didn’t know what I was talking about. I didn’t have the knowledge to form a useful frame for knowledgeable GA users. In other words readers would see through my shallow words. This article got parked.

Word Count 534 – First started on 19th July 2013

 

In Conclusion

There are more than five reasons why you should have a ‘Never Publish’ folder. Something to always remember with these list type articles is that the most important facts rise to the top, but there can be more reasons lurking underneath. You may be shocked to know that over on www.jackowrites.com I list a massive group of novel ideas that I quarantined indefinitely (around 700 hours worth by rough estimation). I had to do this in order to move on and complete novels.

The truth is that sometimes you have to enact the cutting blade to ensure you maintain quality. Don’t be afraid to park work that doesn’t meet the standard but if it is something that you think you need to be reminded of, don’t delete it. Nothing is ever truly a waste.

 

Sharing is Caring

If you have enjoyed, can relate to, or have found this article useful then please share.

You can contact me at headboy@blogprefect.com or hit me up over at Twitter

 

Image Credits

Featured image source by Tookapic via Pixabay

Happy Days, “Fonzi” image located from Wikipedia under fair use.

Wagon with horses image by Gellinger via Pixabay

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

BlogPrefect.com switched from the mail systems provided by BlueHost to redirecting the MX records to FastMail. This was done primarily for visibility and consolidation purposes. I shall be taking you through a How To on redirecting your MX records to point to FastMail from BlueHost. This guide also includes the step to include the DKIM signing key.

FastMail MX Record Setup BlueHost

This guide provides some assistance on setting up your MX record on BlueHost server end so that you can use FastMail to manage your email. The steps are fairly straightforward, you just have to wait some time when the MX records are updated.

  • Estimated time to change the code: 10 minutes.
  • Ease of coding: Easy to Moderate.
  • Time for the record changes to cascade through: Upto 24 hours.

Before getting started:

  • Make sure you have your domain username and password to hand.
  • Make sure you have your FastMail username and password to hand.

Notes and Disclaimer

Note 1: This change is considered “highly visible”. The exact words that FastMail uses. This means that you should schedule making this change when there is less activity. A good time is at night when you are receiving less email.

Note 2: The Subdomain I have that rests underneath BlogPrefect.com doesn’t have a subdomain MX Record setting like the one displayed in FastMail with the form of maindomain.subdomain.com. It appears as its own DNS record in the DNS zone editor on BlueHost, therefore it is considered its own domain for the purposes of email. This means you have to setup a new domain on FastMail.com and edit the MX records on the host.

Note 3: If you are hosted elsewhere (not BlueHost) these instructions can still work but please note that some of the settings such as “Host Record” may use a different character than @.

Note 4: For my own privacy and security I have redacted my host details and the DKIM signing key in the images displayed.

Disclaimer: I do not assume responsibility for any changes you make to your DNS record. If you are unsure of how to proceed I recommend you consult with a professional before continuing.

Disclaimer: FastMail is a paid email service and after a trial period will cost a fee.

Stage 1: FastMail Setup (The Easy Part)

1. Access “Settings” from the top left drop down.
2. Select “Domains” on the left hand side menu.
3. Click the “Add Domain” button.

Stage 1

Note that in this picture I already have my main Domain at BlueHost setup. Your version will be blank if you have not yet set up your domain.

 

4. Add your domain, e.g. example.com, you don’t need the www.

FastMail Settings 2

 

5. Press “Save” when complete.

Stage 1 Complete.

Stage 2: Make a Note of the FastMail DNS Required Settings

1. Press Edit on the Domain

p3

Note: you won’t get a unique DKIM signing key if you don’t save the Domain first. This is an auto generated alphanumeric long chain code that is hard to break.

2. Press “Show DNS settings”

This link can be easy to miss.

This link can be easy to miss.

3. Make a note of these settings, leave the window open so that you can copy and paste them later.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

You will need these 4 settings. 2 are MX, 2 are TXT.

Stage 2 Complete.

Stage 3: Edit/Add the DNS entries to the MX record in BlueHost

Note: You can do these out of order if you wish as long as you have amended 1 MX and 1 TXT entry and added 1 MX and 1 TXT entry.

1. Login to BlueHost
2. Go to Domains > Zone Editor

Domains > Zone Editor BlueHost

3. Select your domain from the drop down (if you have more than one). The page will expand to show you the DNS records.

Select Domain

4. Scroll down to MX (Mail Exchanger)

MX Records on BlueHost

5. Edit the first record by clicking edit. The default is set to Priority 0. You will be changing the priority to 10 and changing the points to field to FastMail’s SMTP mail engine.

Edit BlueHost

6. Enter the following, then press save.

After Edit Bhost

7. Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press add record. This will add the priority 20 element of the SMTP mail engine for FastMail.

Add P20 MX Bhost

8. Edit this TXT entry for SPF by scrolling down to TXT. SPF helps prevent spam.

Edit SPF Bhost

9. Paste in the “txt value” and press save. You will cut and paste this info from FastMail.

Edit SPF Bhost P2

10. For DKIM Scroll up to “Add DNS Record” and enter the following, then press “add record”. DKIM is another spam protection feature.

Note: The Host Record is mesmtp._domainkey, The txt value is the really long chain of alphanumeric code that begins “v=DKIM1; k=RSA; p=

DKIM Key

11. When complete you should see the following:

Records Complete

Stage 3 Complete.

Stage 4: Await Confirmation

Await your Confirmation, you will see when you go into Settings>Domains in FastMail that it has been approved. If you’ve made a hash of things you’ll have to check what you entered at BlueHost’s end.

FastMail Domain Active

You should receive this email from FastMail:-

FastMail DNS Confirmation Email

If you don’t receive this email, something went wrong. Propagation doesn’t take as long as 48 hours normally. Mine was ready in less than an hour.

If you did make a major mistake or in future want to leave FastMail, you can return the records back to the BlueHost default by pressing this button:

Reset Zone File

The default will direct all mail back to its original destination.

Stage 5: Setting Up Aliases

You will need to set up your aliases in order to send and receive as different personas of your domain. E.g. sales@example.com

I will show you how to setup 1 alias, then you just need to rinse and repeat.

1. Go to FastMail Settings > Aliases and Press “New Alias”.

Alias Screen - FastMail

2. Enter your new alias in the Email Box. Select the drop down to the right after the ‘@’ sign to select the correct domain if you have more than one. Press “Save” when you are done.

Add New Alias Screen - FastMail

3. The information will take 15 minutes to update so be patient. This 15 minutes will apply to each Alias.

15 minute wait. FastMail.

4. FastMail recommends that you add Abuse and Postmaster as two default aliases. This is so that spam issues can be mitigated. Other good suggestions include your  First Name, Sales, Support and Info.

5. Test your new email addresses by sending from another account. Make sure you can send and receive without errors.

Stage 5 Complete.

 

In Closing

I hope you found this guide useful. There is nowhere specifically written to take you through this process so I hope this has provided a sufficient short cut. If there are any refinements you think are needed or you hit a log-jam with your setup, let me know.

 

Sharing is Caring

Please share this with the world, not only to help your fellow man and woman but also because I asked nicely. You can use the sharing links to the left from SumoMe.

If you’d like to get in contact with me regarding this guide, you can leave a comment below, you can DM me on Twitter by following this link, or you can send an email to headboy [at] blogprefect.com.

Happy Emailing 🙂

 

Image Credits

  • FastMail Screenshots depict UI from FastMail.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The FastMail logo is copyright of FastMail.com.
  • BlueHost Screenshots depict UI from BlueHost.com and have been used for illustrative purposes only. The BlueHost logo is copyright of BlueHost.com.

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele

For my 200th article on BlogPrefect.com I wanted to cover some personal thoughts on Contact Pages, the specific question in the range of:

Do Contact Pages Provide the Right Clientele?

So why ask this question and why save it for my 200th article? It has a lot to do with the kinds of emails received on a regular basis through the contact page.

I’d always had this bleary-eyed feeling that my contact page would encourage people reading to get in contact because they wanted to interact further. They might want their say and they’d want to do it personally. The truth is, it’s never worked that way.

 

“I had a Dream”

Not quite as grand as Martin Luther King’s but on a blogging context, I had a dream that people would come to me for advice and a point in the right direction. That is what the contact form was for.

 

What I Received Instead

In the main I’ve received spam like I would on any other email account. The comical Nigerian, Chinese or Latin American mystical companies who would want to give me $10,000,000 to put in a bank account are just one of many spam emails I’d see on a regular basis. Since I switched over to FastMail to manage my MX records I’ve seen a massive reduction in that type of spam. Sweet relief!

typical-scam-email

Where people have used the contact page I have received Business Queries in the main and I’ll go onto explain my gripe with these.

 

Business Queries

Every month I receive 10 or so business queries that all follow a similar line. Those that pass the spam criteria normally originate from legitimate individuals but are very much a canvassing event. I have nothing against hustle so much, trying to make bank by door-stepping has been a process for centuries.

Here’s why it doesn’t work on me.

Cold emails are impersonal.

Essentially the process of writing in this way is cold calling and that will never have a great effect on me. I hate cold calling, it doesn’t work. It is that simple but it wouldn’t make a compelling article unless I divulge more on why.

 

Perception of Being Personal

An element of our social lives is being eroded due entirely to the use of technology. Whether you like it or not, you will engage in less person-to-person interaction now than you would have 10 years ago. Automation saves corporations money by reducing the amount of Humans needed in the process.

Everyone is aware that automation can be impersonal so there have been methods to try to personalise the experience.

Often you’ll find that in a mailing campaign that is targeted to a reader, you may wish to use the first name to address the person individually.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

This is a tongue in cheek version of the type of emails I get fairly regularly through the contact form.

You can waste so much time by doing things wrong. First impressions mean everything.

 

Common Tropes That Tick Me Off!

“And by the way, you are doing it wrong.”

I’ve seen this statement in a number of different guises. I’m not sure it is always wise to imply that “you suck”. You certainly won’t engender a business relationship easily this way. People don’t take criticism well. I ran an experimental feature a couple of years ago on Blog Prefect and felt the hostility that coincided with it.

Too much truth hurts from strangers.

 

“I’ve been looking at your site and I think you could…”

I could but do I want to. There are two forms of thought on why I didn’t implement something a certain way.

  1. I tried it and it doesn’t work for my audience.
  2. I don’t have the money to invest in the exact system that will yield the result.

Therefore most pitches will fail. In 3 years of operation I have not once engaged with an email unless I’ve had some kind of natural conversation with the source.

 

Doing it Right

If you wanted to try to impress me or get in my good books then you’d have to work with me. You would have to engage in a simpler exchange.

Trying to co-opt me cold through email isn’t the best route. Start out with something simpler like a message over Twitter or a comment on my latest blog post. Spend the time to build a rapport with me and then maybe you can present your intentions with a warmer attitude.

 

Don’t Appeal to My Greed

People are greedy in this capitalist present but that doesn’t mean that I would jump through hoops for greed. What is important to me is helping people in the best way that I can.

There are many systems and tools that I mention that are often free and provide me no kickback, affiliation or pat on the back. I present them because I’m of the opinion they work well. I, like many readers, like to know how I can get something for free or for the least taxing exchange possible.

At present I don’t have “customers”. I sell no products or services. Therefore eliciting additional customers where I have none is pointless.

 

Read My Blog, Don’t Assume

If you were pitching too me, you’d actually have to read my blog. It sounds dumb but you guys don’t. I have the stats to prove it.

90% of the “sales clunge” that I receive through my inbox makes no effort to show any true insight. Worst still you make an assumption on the purpose of the blog without understanding the direction.

 

I May Not Be in the Right Place at the Right Time

So if you’ve bothered to work on a rapport with me you’ll know that you have to be patient and be a friend in the mean time. The friend requirement sometimes means helping me out or just being a friendly voice.

Writing a pitch email straight up will have no positive effect. I’m not motivated to look at or agree on anything without knowing that I can trust you to some degree. Actions speak louder than words but on the internet most of your actions are words.

 

I’m Not Your “Low Hanging Fruit”

As dark as that sounds. You will have to work harder.

 

Screw the Form

Write me something that doesn’t look like you copied and pasted. Let me know that you aren’t just some VA, copywriter or random citizen that was employed by a slack-jawed suit wearer to bait me into action.

 

As For the Future of the Contact Page

I’ve considered taking it down for a number of reasons but for a number of reasons I want to keep it active. I am therefore torn.

Reasons to Take it Down

  • The removal will instantly reduce the amount of nuisance emails I receive. I have fully vetted and setup my contact form so that it reduces spam but there are still those who fall through the net on occasion. I could restrict more but at the price of alienating.
  • It doesn’t perform its primary purpose. I had intended that people with genuine queries could talk to me about content, problems with their blogs and other conversations related to blogging but this never happens.

Reasons to Leave it Up

  • It is important that if someone had a burning concern and didn’t want to whack my email in directly that they contact me some way.
  • The contact page is an important pre-requisite in a complete Blog and I want to let people know that I can be contacted. I want to declare that I take community seriously.

In summary I would be leaving the page up but I am thinking about re-tuning the purpose of those emails.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

Contact Form 7 is the contact form plugin I currently use.

 

Is My Approach Correct?

In performing research on other Contact forms I have noticed that they are set out in a very specific way. I would have to say that my contact page is lazy with a simple contact form and I need to do a bit more to direct activity here.

In a couple of weeks I hope to have bottomed out the changes to make this page a more useful entry point into conversation.

 

Other Sources on Contact Pages

In providing research on what is afoot I wanted to take a look at some of the high-ranking results on this issue. One that instantly stuck out was an article from BlogTyrant.

10 of the Best Contact Us Pages

Scrolling down to number 6 in the list on that article, Seth Godin‘s contact us page fits some way along the lines that I’d like to frame what the contact page is for.

Another useful search result was from katharine-writes.com

Does your Website Have… A (Useful) Contact Page?

It was interesting to read about whether you should or shouldn’t have the contact form and why throwing up just your email would encourage more people to contact you. My only concern there is that I’ve always tried to reduce the chances of spam by not leaving “mailto links” where bots can easily find them.

Another hugely useful article was written over at Barn2 Media by Katie

6 ways to stop Contact Form 7 spam on WordPress websites

I was unaware of honeypots and there were some other useful inclusions on the list of 6 that were an interesting read, and which I may look to include in my contact form.

 

In Closing

A contact page is something you need but you will always get individuals who will try to go for an easy win. I displayed in the image near the top of the page with the notion of a “driveby” in the subject line. It is very wasteful to cold call. Why not just do it right? It takes longer to cultivate but you are much more likely to hit pay dirt.

Being personal still rocks.

 

Care and Share

I will now ask for your aid in sharing my post. The bonus is that this is the 200th article by BlogPrefect over 3 years. I am happy to have reached this milestone in hopes that I’ve helped others through my observations.

I have changed my social media focus more towards Twitter in recent times because in terms of results I get more interaction with my audience than I would with Facebook or Google+. Therefore please feel free to share this on Twitter. You can also contact me there at twitter.com/blogprefect. I do of course accept shares wherever you’d like to push this content and all of the firm favourites can be found in the SumoMe share bar to the left of the screen (just look for the crown).

I am contactable through, funnily enough the contact page, via a DM on twitter, via this sites wonderful email address of headboy [at] blogprefect.com and through telepathic communication. Maybe not so much for the last one, it gives me a headache.

The comments are open so you are welcome to agree or disagree with anything I’ve written and point out any shortfalls or improvements that you think would be helpful to me or any other readers.

 

Image Credits:

Featured image by Jarmoluk via Pixabay, edited by moi..

How To Inbox Zero

Managing emails is yet another process that clogs our day to day. Back before the advent of emails, it was letters that clogged our world. Now, emails are the virtual clutter in our life.

We generate a staggering number of emails and receive even more on a daily basis and they all have to end up somewhere. It is no wonder that being overwhelmed by emails is a common occurrence but it doesn’t have to be that way.

How to Inbox Zero

Unfortunately I’m going to have to remind you of the nagging that your mother or father might have had in store for you when you were younger. If you tidy up your toys each day you won’t have such a mess.

How do we get out of control in the first place?

It is a matter of lack of discipline, lack of motivation and not controlling what comes in through the front door.

  1. Control
  2. Discipline
  3. Motivation

You are the boss!

Unless you have money to spend on employing someone to manage your inbox you are going to have to get a grip of this yourself.

Every action requires you to be in the driving seat so you are going to have to roll up your sleeves.

What are the drawbacks of a bloated inbox?

  • Simple actions take longer
  • It is difficult to differentiate what is important amongst the competing demand
  • You are far more likely to get lost in your emails rather than being pinpoint accurate with your time spent
  • You start to run close to your inbox size limit which may prevent new emails filtering through

Bloated inboxes need continuous scrolling up and down to find what you are looking for and may force you to use the search function more frequently.

 

What Mindset Do You Need To Get Clear?

You need to cast aside some of your sentimentality when cleaning out your inbox. A bad inbox displays signs that you are a hoarder. Sentimentality combined with de-motivation and a lazy bone or two may be what has led to this problem.

A pro-active approach is needed.

You need to assign an hour per day to this task. Can’t do an hour? Try 30 minutes. You won’t get enough done in 10.

Determining Which Kind of Strategy To Start With

There are two types of email inbox user. Low and High volume receivers form the two groups.

 

High Volume Receivers

A high volume receiver is receiving between 100+ emails a day. You’ve got a serious problem so it benefits you to go through the whole shrinking process from Phase 1: Step 1.

Low Volume Receivers

You can get started on deleting the bulk of email straight away so skip to Phase 1: Step 3 unless you think you can benefit from shrinking your intake down.

Important Exceptions to Mention Before Starting:

During legal proceedings it is best to retain all emails regardless of how little importance you may associate with them. However, I would strongly recommend saving them by printing them to .pdf and where necessary, print to hard copy. They will require their own folder. With legal documentation, don’t delete if you are unsure as it may be difficult to recover later.

Deletion is not always final

Often there might be a ‘deleted’ folder. This will give you a second chance to rescue something before it is deleted forever.

If your inbox size is at its maximum, you may need to ensure that all emails in the deleted folder are permanently deleted before your overall mailbox size is restored and you can start using your account properly.

It is good practice to clean out your deleted emails on a regular basis. In some cases, deleted files will be cleaned off by the system every 30 days. Some systems do this sooner.

THE PROCESS

Phase 1: Purge

The Purge Phase involves you taking a two-pronged attack to your email. You start with what is coming in then end by what you’ve already received.

Why start with what is coming in?

If you don’t start with what is coming in you will soon be overwhelmed by a wealth of emails you don’t need. You won’t have solved the frequency problem. The deletion stage will be longer lasting because you have already destroyed the source of the nuisance.

 

Step 1: Sort by Sender

The most effective way to start stripping back your emails is to sort your emails by sender.

 

Step 2: Eliminate

Don’t delete all of the emails before unsubscribing if you are on a mail subscription. You need to unsubscribe first then delete.

Eliminate the senders that you don’t want to receive content from anymore. Select all of their emails and delete them.

Mark spam as spam. Rather than a simple delete some of the email clients give you a chance to identify spam. Normally spam originates from dodgy named email origins and uses unusual subject lines.

If possible, block those individuals that you continuously delete from, one by one.

 

Step 3: Sort by Date (oldest first)

Important note: some of your mail may still be important so don’t delete unless you are sure.

Create a folder or have a folder free to transfer emails to. This will vary depending on your provider.

Work from the oldest to the newest, deleting non relevant emails. Transfer relevant emails to the other folder. You can “star” or flag important emails.

Whilst in this process, if you have important documents, consider whether they are more appropriately kept as a hard copy. Some bank letters are better kept offline as a hard copy but even these lose their importance after 6 years.

Those items with attachments that are useful can be downloaded. When you are satisfied that the document has been handled correctly you can delete.

 

Step 4: Repeat this Process

Repeat the whole process in 4 weeks’ time as emails mount up again. There may be some emails that aren’t caught on your first sweep with regards subscription or blocking.

 

Phase 2: Organise

Create a number of folders to store the emails from recipients you know you will be keeping in future.

Tips for users with POP mail accounts on a local client:

If using a POP mail account (One that provides a local storage of emails such as Outlook), you can set up some “rules” for your emails.

Suggested rules:

  • Move to folder
  • Move to folder and provide an alert
  • Send to Deleted items**

**Try to avoid receiving these in the first place.

Outlook looks like so:-

Rules can be found along the top of the menu. Microsoft have made this screen a bit muddled.

Rules can be found along the top of the menu. Microsoft have made this screen a bit muddled.

 

Following the wizard is the easiest path to success.

Following the wizard is the easiest path to success.

 

Phase 3: Manage

Every day, check your mail and action changes.

  • Unsubscribe if you don’t need the emails you are receiving. If you find yourself deleting immediately on a regular basis, unsubscribe.
  • Mark spam as spam to train the spam filter.
  • Delete those emails that are not important. Everything is not important after 6 months unless it is a bill you have to keep and then you should consider saving it as a hard copy.
  • Place important emails in folders after responding or taking action on them.
  • Decommission important emails after their time has passed by printing to .pdf

If your email starts getting out of control again, start from Phase 1. Rinse and repeat.

 

In Closing

You should find a great deal of relief in having an empty inbox on a regular basis. It is good to know that everything is sorted. You will find that your efficiency will increase and you will know where everything important is.

If you’ve found this guide useful, feel free to share.

If you have any improvements to this process or any other considerations you’d like to share, let me know.

For Bloggers

I use FastMail as my email client, its fast, functional and easy to set up. Currently the Affiliate link is down therefore I won’t display any warnings here but I would still recommend the service.

I also wrote this article of my first thoughts, more food for thought.

Rules can be setup to manage your emails as per below:-

Found in "Settings" under "Rules"

Found in “Settings” under “Rules”

The resulting rule can be edited if it doesn't perform as expected.

The resulting rule can be edited if it doesn’t perform as expected.

More Useful Links on the Subject

 

Image Credits

Featured image by Andi_Munich via Pixabay