Getting Organized: Clear Your Email Clutter

This month’s Getting Organized post focuses on sorting through your emails. Inbox: 0, here you come!

The end of June is the end of the fiscal year for many companies. Are you trying to get yourself ready for the new fiscal year but you’re overwhelmed by a cluttered inbox? I’ve got the guide to help you clear the clutter and get to that elusive Inbox: 0

Stop Checking That Inbox   It may seem counterintuitive – how are you ever going to keep your inbox at 0 if you don’t check it 50 times a day? But research has shown that it takes up to 20 minutes to get focused on a new task. So every time you take a break from work to open your email, you are distracting your brain, making it harder to get back to the work at hand. Instead, set aside two hours each day for emails, one in the morning before you start your work, and one after your lunch break before getting back into your work. This may frustrate colleagues who expect a fast response, but unless you are under a serious deadline, there is no need to respond immediately to an email. And that brings me to the next tip…

Read and Respond (Thoughtfully)   Generally you can tell, without opening an email, which items require a response and which don’t. If something needs a response, which requires investing your time, don’t open it until you have the time to dedicate to it (ie: those two hours you set aside by following the tip above). I can’t tell you how often I’ve been frustrated by a response to an important email that clearly wasn’t given the thought and time it deserved. Work related emails, especially with clients, must be read and responded to carefully and that means taking your time to do so. Set up a policy of promising a response within a set time frame such as one business day or 12 hours or whatever will fit best for your schedule.

Never Hit Delete Again   Either read that email or unsubscribe (and then delete), but don’t mindlessly delete. By mindlessly deleting unopened emails, you are allowing the daily clutter to keep occurring. I’m guilty of this myself. I once came back from a week-long trip (during which I did not check my inbox once) to find I have over 100 emails. I promptly deleted about 80 of them, knowing they were offers or newsletters I didn’t need or have time for. Had I used that time to unsubscribe rather than hit delete, I would have saved myself precious future minutes where I again had to delete the unwanted emails. Remember, it may seem like just a few wasted minutes each day, but in an already jam-packed schedule, every minute matters. And that brings me to the final tip…

Stop Subscribing!   Anytime you subscribe to a website’s offers or newsletters, you are guaranteeing your inbox will be flooded weekly, if not daily, with emails you are never going to read. Be thoughtful about giving out your email. Only sign up for offer emails from stores you shop at regularly (my Michael’s updates are essential!) For newsletter subscriptions, sign up for the ones you are so excited about that you will make time in your day to read them. If you do sign up for newsletters but don’t read them for 3 emails in a row, it’s time to unsubscribe.

Seriously, I’m never going to read these…

Be patient. Following these tips won’t get you to “Inbox: 0” overnight, but over the next month you will see the number of unread emails dwindle down. I promise, this method works. My proudest achievement is getting a client who had over 600 unread emails down to zero and he has been able to easily manage his inbox ever since!

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