Friday, September 10, 2010

De-Monster your Inbox

A great quick way to eliminate some mental clutter from your life is to clear out and organize your e-mail inbox. Do it at work and it will feel so good you'll want to do it at home too!

Everyone has e-mails that need to be saved, especially for work, but your inbox is not a good place to store them. Set aside a half an hour or so, create some folders, and sort the e-mails into the folders. Don't get too hung up on how to categorize them, most e-mail programs have search functions to help you locate e-mails later. Once you have your inbox cleaned out and your folders set up, take the time to keep it that way: after you read a new message, decide to either delete it or move it to a folder. Only e-mails containing things that need to be done in the very near future should live in your inbox. Every few months, take the time to look back through the folders and delete notes that you no longer need.

If your home e-mail gets full of spam, courtesy offers, and sale notifications, take a few minutes to deal with these. For example, I ONCE bought a crystal bowl from a website as a gift, and received weekly "special offers" from that site for months until I finally took the time to unsubscribe. If you are thinking, "wait, I might miss a really great deal," then keep only the offers from retailers that you are really likely to use. Then, when an offer comes through, place those notes into a separate folder. After a few months, you can look back and see what you have been actually using and eliminate the rest. Be careful- these notes are very effective ways of enticing you to part with your hard-earned dollars and re-clutter your life!

Also do a good deed for the universe and mark anything suspicious as spam using your e-mail provider's button. This can prevent you and other people from getting further e-mail from that sender. Pat yourself on the back for doing something nice.

Before I was a nurse, I worked in an office where I received 40-50 e-mails each day. Every morning I would take a few minutes to look through, delete what I didn't need, file what I did need, and then get started on the requests and action items that needed my attention. Something about whittling down that seemingly huge pile of stuff made me feel like I was more in control of my workload.

When I got a blackberry a few months ago, I noticed that it was time to weed through my personal inbox again and do some serious unsubscribing. I finally did that last week- it really made an immediate difference in the volume of e-mail I was receiving. I am trying to get back into the habit of clearing out my inbox once a day (much easier with the blackberry because I can do it while waiting at the dentist or whatever).  It makes the actual, important e-mails stand out more and keeps me from feeling overwhelmed by volume.

Meanwhile, back at the bat cave, I decided that it was time to conquer the monsters under my bed.

If you take a look at my bedroom, you might think it is pretty much clutter free (although usually my bed is unmade- remember I put the domestic goddess thing on hold for a while). But under the bed, there was a pile of various bits and pieces covered by a layer of dust and cat hair. The cat hair is especially problematic as I no longer have a cat...
It really only took about 20 minutes to sort through the stuff and find more appropriate places for most of it. I left a container of wrapping paper and a back massager under there, but the cat hair is gone and I can now vacuum under the bed without sucking up a stray pencil or snapshot.
What I am finding out is that the decluttering is pretty easy and unintimidating when I break it down into small tasks.  It also feels great to lay in my bed and not worry that something scary is going to come out from underneath and suck me into an alternate universe!

***I just found out that Leo Babauta wrote an entry called "Email Sanity" on Zen Habits that has some similar ideas for the inbox, and a few more. Here is a link if you are insterested:

1 comment:

  1. I'm loving all the great hints and inspiration! We've been in the process of de-cluttering and I'm going to make it my goal to try doing smaller, more manageable tasks to help keep me on track.

    Thanks for commenting on the blog, I hope we get to see you soon (Mamaw and Papaw's wedding anniversary?)



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