This week I did something I haven’t done in a long time: organize one of my email inboxes. You know what? When I got done it felt really good! I only had like 10 emails in there that still had to be attended to and everything else was filed away or “thrown out”. Have you done this lately or are you someone who has thousands of messages in your inbox? Before you get distracted by the guilt, let’s talk about fixing it.
First, I think we need to establish what an inbox is really for: it’s where your mail comes to be dealt with. It’s not where it’s supposed to stay forever.
Second, you need to set up “folders” that work for you. I don’t know any email program that doesn’t allow you to create folders for your emails. What folders should you have? I think you have to think both short term and long term. I have a couple folders I visit on a regular basis and have created for that purpose, but I have other folders that I use to store important or interesting emails for long term needs. A good label is key!
Third, you have to use those folders effectively. The point of having the folders is to use them to sort and store your email. You can get complicated and set up “rules” to have emails miss your inbox all together and go to specific folders, but I find that unless they’re emails I don’t need to read on a regular basis or don’t want showing up in my inbox, it’s just better to have them go to my inbox.
If you’re following along and read those emails and then put them where they go, being realistic about how many you keep, you’ll be able to keep your inbox at a manageable number, and you’ll actually be able to find and use those emails you have been keeping for a reason.