How I decluttered my inbox and dropped spam to (almost) zero

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Spam. The plague of the digital age. Unwanted ads are probably one of the most annoying things when you are trying to become more productive. You have new e-mail! Awesome! “Lose weight fast” – Another trick into getting you to buy something. Here is a straightforward list to help you battle this disruptive hassle.

Set up filters

Filters are a great feature that most e-mail services provide. Gmail does, and it’s a life saver. Filters let you purify incoming e-mails, setting up an action for some of them based on a search criteria. For example, you can automatically archive and mark as read all e-mail coming from a specific address, or assign a label to all e-mail containing the words “receipt OR invoice.”

Unsubscribe

According to the CAN-SPAM act, a set of guidelines for companies to send e-mails, every company must have an unsubscribe link on their marketing e-mails, you should find it on the e-mail footer. If not, some services like Gmail and Outlook provide their own ‘unsubscribe’ button, that should be along the top of the message. This should make sure you don’t receive any more emails targeted to that list… but before you start unsubscribing, read the next topic…

Don’t Unsubscribe

“What? You just told me to unsubscribe, make up your mind!” – Well, some rules have exceptions. Remember how every company must have an unsubscribe link on their e-mail? Well, some shady companies will provide this link, but instead of unsubscribing you, the link will only confirm that you e-mail belongs to a real active user, and will start sending you even more spam. So, use your judgement, is the e-mail from a real honorable company? Click unsubscribe. Shady companies, poorly written e-mails and content you never approved for, do this…

 Report SPAM

Almost every e-mail service has a button to report spam. Whenever you have unsubscribed to a list and keeps getting messages from them, report as spam. This will tell e-mail servers to keep an eye for this guy, if they are marked as spam by enough users, they can even be banned from sending e-mail. You’ll not only make sure you won’t get their messages any more, but you’ll also help future users who might be victims of this spammy sender.

Use temporary e-mails

Sometimes websites will require your e-mail to sign up for services. If it’s a service you don’t plan to have an account with, you might want to consider using a temporary inbox like Mailinator. Any e-mail address at Mailinator is a valid (and public) e-mail inbox. You can register anywhere using temporary-email-inbox@mailinator.com and access this mailbox on their website. Be careful though, anyone can have access to their inboxes so never use a public inbox for services that might send you sensitive data.

Pay attention to automated e-mails

Automated e-mails are great for companies, they send out every week, reminding you that your Facebook status has a new like. For users, well, sometimes they can be a bother. If you look at your inbox right now, it is probable you will find e-mails you get every week or month that is not relevant to you. Every second you stop to read the title, make a descision if it’s relevant or not and sometimes even accidentaly opening it, is wasted time. Set up filters or unsubscribe.

Never expose your e-mail online

If you have a website, do not leave your e-mail there in plain text on the page. Why? Well, there are some tools called web scrapers, they will sweep the web looking for email addresses to send spam. Consider, instead of leaving your e-mail in plain sight, displaying it as an image (scrapers can only read text) or even better, adding a contact form.

Migrate to a new inbox

Sometimes the house is too infested to try to recover it, you have to move to a new one. E-mail migration can be a pain, getting used to a new address, telling everyone about your new e-mail, seems like an almost impossible task. Well, actually it’s not as hard as it seems. Create a new adress, forward important e-mails from you old one (remember filters?), update your contacts, business cards, etc, and start giving people your new one. You’ll have a brand new inbox in no time.

Bonus: Use the + Sign

This is a pretty cool hack. Anything you append after a + sign in your e-mail will lead to your same inbox. If your email is john@gmail.com, for example, any of john+2@gmail.com or john+anything@gmail.com will take e-mails to the same john@gmail.com inbox. You can use this technique when giving your e-mail online, appending the website name after the plus sign, this way, you will know if they disclose your e-mail to third party, spammy companies.

Well, that’s it. Any other techniques or tips to improve e-mail minimalism? Leave a comment below!

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