I had over 55,000 emails in my inbox. It didn’t bother me until I started losing track and a few clients called, asking if I received their time-sensitives emails. Desperate, I turned to Facebook and posted a plea for help. My Facebook friend, Florida photographer Tim Forrest, came to the rescue. Along with being a photographer, Tim is a consumer product brand and distribution expert with over 30 years of experience transforming businesses through marketing and sales innovation. He gave me several great tips and I asked him if he’d share them with our Photofocus readers. Here’s Tim advice on how to take control of your email:

For many years my Gmail account inbox had 1,000s of read and unread messages; and it continued to bump up against the overall storage limits of my account. It was frustrating and one day, a couple of years ago, I could no longer receive new emails because of reaching the total storage capacity. This frustrating event helped me to decide it was time to clean up my emails and take control of my inbox.

My search for solutions turned up several useful methods and utilities. It was not difficult once I began and had the right tools. In this quick write-up, I’ll share my experience and actions in the hope it helps you take control of your emails now and keep on top of them going forward. My hope is this article provides you value in your photography business and client interactions so that you can spend more time shooting and less time reviewing emails.

Tools to Help you Take Action

Five tools that allowed me to quickly and effectively take control of my inbox include:

  1. Search Operators
  2. Unroll.me
  3. Auto-Advance
  4. Canned Responses
  5. Choosing Archive or Delete on every email.

Search Operators

Finding large emails with big attachments was my first priority and the emergency that shut down my Gmail service. I had no interest in moving to a paid upgrade with Google, so I began searching for a way to add more space.

The key to searching for large emails taking up space is a tool called a “search operator.” In my case, I began searching for files larger than 5MB with the search operator. Type ‘size: 5MB’ in the email search for Gmail and you will see all emails that are larger than 5MB in size. I actually played with the size until I found the emails that were ‘‘size: 10MB’ and ‘size: 20MB’. This allowed me to more quickly open up space in my Gmail account.

Once I ran the search and reviewed the emails, I mainly deleted the emails. There were certain email addresses that sent the bulk of my emails. Repeatedly, I would search for those repetitive emailers and then mass delete 100s of emails in an instant. There were loads of emails that I wanted to keep, so I downloaded or archived those emails for future use.

I’ve read where some people just delete all emails and then begin from ground zero. In my situation, there are too many reference and historical emails that I want to access and review.


Once I began reviewing my emails and my clogged inbox, it was obvious that I was being bombarded by emails from accounts that I had enrolled in some subscription or service. It was time to cut back on my many subscriptions.

The Unroll.me app allowed me to instantly see a list of all my subscription emails. It allowed me to unsubscribe easily and quickly from the accounts I no longer wanted clogging my account.


Taking action with Unroll.me and deleting my largest emails created some breathing room in my email account. Now it was time to get more productive with my various emails that came in on a normal basis. Like so many features of Gmail, I was unaware there was an “auto-advance” feature in Gmail. This simple step alone saves me a tremendous amount of time and effort when reviewing my emails, archiving or deleting the unnecessary email. If you do not use auto-advance, try it now and feel the speed of running through your email inbox.

To make Gmail automatically open the next (or previous) message instead of going back to the message list: Make sure Auto-advance is enabled.

  1. Click the Settings gear icon in Gmail.
  2. Choose Settings from the menu.
  3. Go to the General tab.
  4. Make sure either Go to the previous (older) conversation (recommended if you begin processing your Gmail messages on top) or Go to the next (newer) conversation is selected under Auto-advance: for after archiving, deleting, muting, etc. a conversation. You can turn off automatic advancing with Go back to the thread list.

Note: If you don’t see the auto-advance option, click on the Lab tab and enable Auto-advance

Canned Responses

Do you copy and paste the same email response over and over or, worse yet, do you type the same email over and over to photography clients, models or associates? Gmail has a great template tool that is simple to set up and begin using in minutes. It’s called “canned responses.”

To activate canned responses:

  1. Click the gear wheel icon in the upper right hand corner.
  2. Click Settings.
  3. Click the Labs tab, find Canned Responses.
  4. Click the Enable radio button to enable Canned Responses, scroll down and click Save Changes.
  5. Compose an email message you’d like to use over and over again, and then click the arrow in the lower right-hand corner of the message window.

The canned response can include directions to your studio, an invoice cover email, website inquiry response and link to your portfolio or even a thank you email. It all depends on your needs and the emails you generate for your photography efforts.

Archive or Delete (Needed Actions added to Todoist.com)

The last big action that resulted in me taking control of my email inbox was the decision step. My action now is to archive or delete. My only choice is to archive or delete the email along with the possible addition of a task to my Todoist app.

My workflow on my Gmail inbox is simple and direct. If I can respond to an email in 3 minutes, then I respond to the email and move on to archiving the email or deleting the email from my Gmail account. If there is some action that I must take in the future on the email, I add that effort to my Todoist app.

These five steps allowed me to take control of my emails and go from 1000s of unread messages to a clean zero email inbox. It has not been this well organized for more than a decade and continues to pay dividends in response and work times.