Let me ask you: how many email messages are currently in your Inbox, waiting to be processed? 200? 1500? 20000? In my case I was looking at about 1000 emails across multiple accounts, and I can safely say they felt like a weight on my shoulders, a burden on my already tired brains and a constant pressure during every day I kept them waiting.
I am so old that I remember the day I received my first email. Why? Because this was big at the time, I mean you had to be very important to get one. I was very proud and should have probably printed and framed it to show it today. Oh how times have changed…
We all receive many emails the more we register ourselves for online services, and we all feel the weight of messages piling up in our Inbox. The thing is, we should not use Inbox as a storage location but as processing location. That’s right, just because nowadays you have the ability to store an infinite amount of emails does not mean that is what you should do.
In the screenshot above you see space. Empty space on my computer but most of all empty space in my brains so they can get back to more important work. I felt fear of checking my email, pressure of all those attention seeking messages and just knew that between all that stuff would be some important pieces of information I had to act upon. And that is what I did, and what you should do as well.
First of all, do not make email come in every 5 minutes, but check your mailbox manually on a set time every day or even once a week if your life does not depend on those emails.
Secondly, process every email message. So do not just skimp over the headers, or read the emails, I mean actually process them one by one. If an email can be replied or acted upon within a few minutes, do it immediately! Do not skip the tough actions because other email headers look more appealing to you. Just do it now!
Third, make folders inside your Inbox for messages you need to act upon at a later time, messages that you need to keep for future reference and best of all: messages you can just delete. The good part is that the Trash is already there when you make an email account, you just have to fill it (and sometimes empty it manually or set the software to do this for you every day, week, month or whatever feels secure to you).
Decluttering is not just storing your things back where they belong, it also applies to the digital world. Stay on top of it, your brains will thank you later!