Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Uncluttering my inbox

Y'all know I'm uncluttering my house during Lent, but what I haven't shared is that I'm also uncluttering my email inbox.  Like a lot of people, I use my email inbox as sort of a to-do list.  Each email in my inbox represents a task I need to accomplish or something I need to remember.  Admittedly, this works well for lots of people.  For me though?  Not so much.

I know folks who routinely keep 100 or more emails in their inboxes.  Mine was consistently around 30 or 40, and it was overwhelming.  See, the problem is, while each of the emails represents something I need to do or remember, it's not always readily apparent from the subject just what that is.  So in order to access my "to-do" list, I need to read the emails.  When there are 30 to 40 emails to sift through, and I need to read each of them every time I want to figure out why I'm saving each one, and if I still need to save it, that wastes a lot of time.  And then there was the constant low-level anxiety because I was always afraid I was forgetting about something--I would lose important emails in the noise of dozens of less important ones.

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So I set a goal to keep my email inbox to 5 or fewer read emails.  Remember that guy, who is probably a professional at something?  You know, the one who says if a task will take you 2 minutes or less you should do it right away?  Yeah.  I'm doing that now, at least with regard to my email inbox.

So now, if I get an email that tells me the date for something, I put it on my calendar and delete the email.  Right then.  If I get an email receipt for an online purchase, or a notice for a bill that's paid automatically, I make a note of the amount, then delete the email, right then--if I need the details, I can look them up online.  If I get an email telling me that my order has shipped, I keep it until the package arrives, then delete it.  If I get an email from some company that I don't want to hear from, I unsubscribe and delete.  Right then.  If I get an email, the subject of which I need to discuss with someone, I make a note on our whiteboard that I need to talk to that person, and then I delete the email.  Right then.  Unless, of course, I need to send a response.

If I get an email that I want to be able to refer back to in the future (like travel plans), but that I don't want cluttering my inbox, I will forward the email to myself, changing the subject to something that will remind me what the email is about.  My email program is set to automatically save a copy of all sent emails, and then when I need to reference that particular email, I can use the search function to easily find it in my sent folder.

It's been working so far, and I am pleased.  My inbox has stayed below 5 emails since I started this project.  I feel so.much.better not having all of those read emails hanging over my head, taunting me.

How about you?  How many emails are in your inbox right now?  Does that number bother you?

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