Slaying the email dragon

17 December 2019


I try hard not to let my email inbox for my business get out of control. I use a different email when I shop so it’s not flooded with too much non-business related email. In the past, I’ve embraced inbox zero and I’m considering a regular inbox zero habit as one of my 2020 goals.)

Yesterday I had an unexpected day at my desk because of a winter storm and I spent some time getting my inbox under control. It was fairly painless. I started the morning with 267 messages in my inbox, 18 of them unread. (I use my Mac’s email client—the one with the icon of a postage stamp—on my desktop.) I decided that I wanted to get my inbox down to 20 messages and I wanted to do it swiftly. Here’s what I did.

  • I set a timer for five minutes. I sorted my messages by sender. That allowed me to do some bulk deletes, like the many-times-a-day messages I get with headlines from the Washington Post. I’m not great about deleting those in real time. So in my first five minutes, I deleted all of them, along with other regular messages I get. At the end of the first five minutes, I had 191 messages left, 9 of the unread.
  • I set a timer for another five minutes and continued going through my inbox. I deleted a lot, I archived some messages, I filed a few. (I have a Clients folder, for example, where I file messages from clients.) At the end of that five minutes, I had 128 messages, 6 of them unread.
  • You guessed it: I set my time for another five minutes and got the inbox down to 64 messages, 3 unread.
  • I set my timer for a final five-minute session. At the end of it, I’d met my goal: 20 messages, 0 unread.

To recap, in 20 minutes of focused effort yesterday morning, I reduced my inbox from 267 messages to 20 messages.

Throughout the day, I tried to stay on top of my inbox. This morning, I forgot to notice how many were there when I got up but I did spend a little time with my inbox and got it down to five messages. I was going to call that done. I started to write, “I’m reluctant to move these messages because they remind me of some actions I need to do.” But then I realized that’s why I have a task management system. So I forwarded a couple of emails to Evernote, added a couple of items to my Trello task-management board, archived one message and now I have an empty inbox!

I know from past experience that once I’m at zero it becomes much easier to keep it at zero. I’m going to try to maintain inbox zero this week (a very busy client week) and see if it might be an achievable goal for 2020. This feels great!

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About Janine

Hello! I’m Janine Adams — a certified professional organizer based in St. Louis, and the creator of Peace of Mind Organizing®.

I love order, harmony + beauty, but I believe that the way that you feel about yourself and your home is what truly matters.

If you’re ready to de­clutter with a purpose and add more ease to your life, you’ve found the right blog — and you’ve found the right gal.

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