It has recently come to my attention that...apparently, not everyone finds the above photo deeply disturbing. I certainly do. I can’t understand why you would be okay with that many unread emails in the first place, but then to be okay with a tiny red bubble that is constantly telling you how much unattended business you have sitting there just staring at you....how do people live like this??
I was having this conversation with a good friend of mine who had loaned me her phone to look up directions today. I was appalled to open the device and find the red bubble above the mail that read 648 unread emails. I was aghast. And we proceeded to have a (slightly heated) conversation where I tried to understand how she functions this way and she tried to explain to me how it just didn’t bother her.
I’m going to let that sink in.
It. Didn’t. Bother her.
Needless to say, it bothered me. Organization, efficiency, planning, these are some of the most important pillars of my life. When I was a child, my mom would tell me to go clean my room, when she checked on me an hour later I would undoubtedly be sitting in the middle of my floor surrounded be one category of items from one of my shelves, probably papers, going through each one and putting them into keep, throw away, maybe piles. I was konmari-ing before I even knew what Konmari was.
Nowadays bullet journaling has allowed me to take my love for organization to new levels. But I don’t just organize my physical world. I am also very interested in organization and productivity as it relates to the digital world. We are bombarded day in and day out, all day long, with information and digital attention getters. A lot of times we shove what we can’t handle in the moment under the proverbial bed and into the closet...ie, our emails.
Can’t read that newsletter right now, l’ll get back to it later. Oh! I like that sign-incentive. I’ll sign up and go look at it later. I know I want to read this article and I don’t want to lose it, I’ll email it to myself and read it later. Next thing you know you’ve got 13 unread emails and who has time for that?
You’ll get to it later.
Meanwhile you’ve got one more thing hanging over your head that you have to think about and make time for and feel guilty about not attending to.
To combat this digital overwhelm epidemic in my own life I’ve put a few processes in place to make the whole email “dirty room” problem a little more manageable.
First, I have four personal email accounts and a work email. I don’t think that’s altogether strange, but maybe it is. Each of these emails has a pretty specific purpose. One is a business email for my writing work and one is an email I use for signing up for websites or other things I don’t really care about seeing again, and I don’t keep it logged in on my phone. Theres also the email that used to be my go to email before I got the other email that is now my go to email...that one’s purpose is a little less defined but basically, things that I want to see, but aren’t quite as important to me enough to go to my personal email, go to this email.
And that’s not where it ends.
In addition to these multiple email accounts meant to keep my life organized, I have multiple folders in my email to make it more organized and to allow me to keep track of things that I need and get rid of things I don’t and try to always keep my inbox empty if at all possible. By multiple folders I mean between 15 and 38 folders...depending on the mailbox. Why, you ask? Simple. There are some emails that I want to keep, but I don’t want to look at all the time.
So if you are someone like me who enjoys having even the digital parts of life organized and an empty inbox makes you breathe easier, take a deep breath and dive into my top 5 tips for a super organized email inbox
1. Don’t Empty your Inbox Everyday
Most people get tons of emails everyday, and unless you are an extremely pro active person, you probably don’t have the mental capacity to give each and every one the attention it needs the moment it hits your inbox. So instead of stressing about how many email there are and what they might be and what action needs to be taken, instead set aside one time, every week when you can sit with your email with a cup of coffee and really go through each of the messages there and either respond, delete, or file them away.
2. Don’t Leave Unopened Emails in your box for more than a week
Again, we are trying to avoid overwhelm here, so instead of steadily watching that red bubble rise from 3 to 9 to 27 for days and weeks on end, causing you more stress due to the unfinished business you have staring you in your face, make sure you address everything in your inbox once a week. Additionally, while most emails in your inbox probably aren’t super important, if you are waiting longer than a week to respond to anything in there, chances are when something important does come along, you will have missed it.
3. Do have a list of VIPs
Since almost no one can handle checking and emptying their inbox everyday (nor should you have to) it’s that much more important to make sure the important emails are given priority. On iOS it’s as simple as clicking a button inside a contact to make sure your selected VIPs (think spouse, boss, bff, business partners, etc) email’s are pulled out of the crowd and stand out. These emails can generate separate notifications and even have their own inbox automatically in your mail app. There is a workaround to have a similar interaction with gmail on android devices, you can follow the directions in this link.
4. Do unsubscribe
I have a favorite saying, “you don’t need more space, you need less stuff”. I probably didn’t invent that saying, but its just as true for your email as it is for the clutter in your kitchen. You probably have dozens of emails that come to your inbox because of a random sign-up incentive you wanted, or a contest you entered that gave your email to other companies, or a website you created a login for one time because you needed one thing and never bothered to go back, or any other number of reasons. You either delete these emails without a second glance or you never open them and end up with 694 unread emails in your inbox. ::shudder::
Instead, take the extra five seconds to scroll to the bottom of the unwanted email and unsubscribe. It costs you nothing, no one will judge you and you save yourself a bit of mental energy. Or better yet, use an app to make unsubscribing even easier. I use an app called unroll.me that bundles all my subscribed emails into one email that I get once a day, instead of each of them popping into my inbox individually. It also makes unsubscribing super easy.
5. Create Email Organization Folders
So you remember those 15 - 38 folders I have in each of my email inboxes? Thats my secret weapon. I have folders for links to apartments I’m interested in, jobs I’ve applied to, sign-up incentives I need to use, online purchases I’ve made, and much more. This means I never have to panic when I need the receipt to an iTunes purchase I made 2 months ago. And I also don’t have to search through thousands of emails in my inbox, I just go to the email folder and search for a keyword or the date. Easy peasy. And most importantly, less stress.
So, how do you keep your digital life tidy? Any useful apps you can point my way? Comment below or send me an email, I’d love to get in touch.
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"Fiction gives the human soul a voice." - Helen Benedict
My thoughts on books, writing, inspiration, motivation and my incredible chosen proffession.