How to Keep your Inbox Clean... for Good

As you go through your day, emails come in like flowing water. They pile up on top of other emails in your already full inbox. Some emails may be unimportant, like offers from stores, and others may be strategic, such as a client negotiations. Month after month; year after year, the number of emails in your inbox grows to hundreds and thousands.

I propose a new way of managing your inbox: keep it empty.

Don’t let emails stay there longer than 24 hours. Why? Because when an inbox is full of emails, your view gets cluttered. Lying within your crowded inbox, it is easy for important items to get lost. Furthermore, a full inbox where key information is just floating around with no control adds unnecessary stress to your life.

[Photo: Siarhei Plashchynski/Unsplash]

[Photo: Siarhei Plashchynski/Unsplash]

How to Get Started Cleaning Your Inbox & Keeping It Clean

Choose this week to start anew with a completely clean inbox. It’s easy: just delete and archive old emails, until your inbox is empty. If you are like I was, you probably have thousands of emails in your inbox already. Ideally, you would have the time to go through everything and see if there is anything important you should have answered all those years ago. If you do, go through and store and delete emails after you have gone through each one.

If you don’t have the time, cut your losses and decide to turn a new leaf. Just store your entire inbox. At least you’ll know everything is there, and if you are ever bored with nothing to do, you can sort through your old emails to see if you missed something.

Once your inbox is clean, you can start managing your emails in a new way. Go through the emails of the day and delete those that are useless, or those you already read that need no response. Next, respond to whatever you need to respond to, then delete or archive. You will be left only with the things you need to work on. The goal is to act upon each email on the day it is received, so that at the end of the day every email, no matter how important is either stored or deleted.

If an email arrives with something you can’t possibly complete within the day, set it as a task for yourself and schedule it for the date when you are able to do it. If an item, on the other hand, can be completed that same day, the email will serve as a reminder during the day. As soon as it’s done, either delete or archive.

It is important to force yourself to keep the 24-hour deadline for deleting or archiving. If you don’t take an action on every email, they will start to accumulate again, and you are back to square one.

As you get into the habit of deleting and archiving, you will notice that a lot of the clutter comes from subscriptions and other emails you don’t wish to receive. I encourage you to invest the time to unsubscribe from email lists that aren’t useful. Also, tweak the notification settings of apps or other email lists to make sure you are only receiving the emails that help you – and nothing more.

As for the other emails that don’t give you the option to unsubscribe, you can filter them out. Use the feature in your email account that helps you filter messages with that address and instantly delete them. You don’t realize how many useless emails you receive until you start working on eliminating them. My account has about 80 email addresses that have been filtered out.

[Photo: Bruno Kim/Unsplash]

[Photo: Bruno Kim/Unsplash]

Start Keeping Your Inbox Clean Today, and Forever

Try this new method I've proposed. You will lower the risk of missing an important email. It will also force you to quickly respond and turn around work and requests. But I believe the biggest benefit is different. Because you have dealt with everything that has come your way, you will have a sense of closure and even peace at the end of the day.

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