Clearing out the Digital Clutter: Tackling the Email Inbox

With seven people in my house, it’s hard to keep things neat and tidy, but you’d never associate me with clutter.  I’m not one for knick-knacks or piles of magazines or piles of anything really, unless you count laundry!

In my office, my desk is clear, the bookshelf is organized and I’ve even gotten my office supply obsession under control.

It’s not till you peer into my hard drive that you find my dirty little secret.

I keep everything.  Emails, images, e-books, program files I no longer use…everything!

You never know when you’ll need that email from 2008 right?

Fortunately, technology has made it possible for me to hang on to all of those wonderful things in such a way that they are out of sight, unless I need them.  When I need them, they’re right at my finger tips.

Here’s how I do this with my emails.

Gmail.  Need I say more? For my business based emails, I use Google Apps.

I’ve played with lots of systems over the last few years, and this is what works for me.

Everything goes to my inbox.

I used to have everything filtered out so that I had dozens of different labels.  The problem with that was that it was easy to overlook emails or postpone looking at certain folders/labels.  It also kind of camouflaged how many emails I was getting on a daily basis.

With everything going to my inbox I’ve become much more particular about what lists/ezines I subscribe to.  This alone has eliminated a lot of digital clutter and wasted time.

I review my inbox periodically throughout the day.  If something needs my immediate attention or can be handled within a few minutes, I take care of it right then and there.

Once it’s addressed, I archive it.  I have labels/folders for each of my clients and a few other things (not the dozens and dozens like before).  Everything else just goes to the regular gmail archive and if ever I need it again, a quick search brings it right up.

If it’s something that can’t be addressed immediately, it stays in the inbox.  That way, it’s in my face and I won’t lose track of it.

If it’s client or project related, I enter it into my project management system and assign it to a team member.  The email then gets archived.

Some things don’t fit into either category.  They may be ezines or trainings, or other things that don’t need to be addressed right away.  They get ‘starred’ and archived.

That way I can come back to them when I have time.  I usually read through them in the carpool line, at soccer practice, or on trips.

It’s a pretty simple system.  My inbox is no longer overflowing.  Everything that needs to be addressed is handled promptly and everything else is still there for me when I’m ready.

This may not work for you.  But give it a shot.  If it doesn’t work, move on to something else.  The key is to do something.  Digital clutter is no joke!  It affects your productivity and your mindset just like the physical clutter in your home or office would.

Sometimes the job seems too big.  I’ve had clients with over 10,000 emails in their inbox.  I have one client with over 14,000 unread emails in their inbox as we speak. Don’t do that.  So many important things fall through the cracks!  But if you find yourself in a similar situation, there are a couple of things you can do.

1) Get help.  Seriously.  With a little bit of input from you, a VA can hop in and clear those suckers out.  Maybe even find you a few opportunities that you didn’t even know you had!

2) This one might seem a little drastic…archive everything.  Draw a line in the email sand.  Maybe it’s today, or last week, or last month and archive everything prior to that date.  It may be a little scary, but it’s a clean start.

If you’re ready to get some help with your inbox or setting up Google Apps for your business….

Schedule a Take It Off My Plate Session to find out how we can do it for you.

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