Starting Fresh 5: Email

Each blog post until the end of the year, I will focus on a particular area of clutter, to help guide you in removing unwanted things, activities, and people from your life. The goal is to start 2013 clutter free!

Today we're focusing on email clutter.

EMAIL. The gift that never stops giving. Just like everything else in life, it's a mixed bag. It's great that you can send a document or a message to someone in an instant. At the same time, chances are that you get emails all day long from other people, and each email represents one more thing you have to do.

SO let's take a look and see what we can accomplish now.

1) Email contacts/addresses. Go through your contact list and eliminate anyone you are no longer in contact with, and old email addresses of those with whom you regularly stay in contact. You want a fresh list of people who you contact through email. This will help you avoid being overwhelmed in the future.

2) Email folders. Delete any folders you are no longer using. Ask yourself "When was the last time I used this?" You are helping yourself become more clear and definite. Do you use this or not?

3) Remaining email folders. Go through each one, and see which emails you can delete. Ask yourself, "Do I need to save this email for any purpose?" If not, delete it. What I've learned from working with clients is that people have a tendency to want to save a lot of stuff using a "what if...?" scenario. If you don't need it, it's not serving you. It's best to go on what's actually happening in your life.

4) Inbox. People who manage email successfully touch each email one time. Judging from the subject line and the sender, they determine whether they should delete it immediately or leave it until they are ready to read it and respond. Once they are ready to read it and respond, they read it and respond immediately. Then they delete it or, if it is important to keep, put it in an email folder. In this way, the Inbox becomes a to-do list that is crossed out (emails taken out) every day once each email is read or deleted. The goal can be to clear out the Inbox each day, though some days this may not be possible, for instance, if you are waiting for a reply from someone else before you move forward with a task.

5) Checking email. I heard a speaker saying that she found herself compulsively checking email, even though she knew that nothing important was there. She couldn't stop herself from doing it. I find myself doing the same thing sometimes; maybe it's wanting to get a jolt of "Oh, I'm wanted. Someone sent me something!" But it drains our resources to do that incessantly. It helps to say to yourself, "I think I'll be okay if I don't check it right now. Let's just wait and see what happens, as an experiment." Will you survive? I think you will.

Please write and tell me your experiences clearing email clutter; it helps inspire people when you share.

If you have trouble and get stuck, feel free to call me at (310) 903-1041 to arrange a phone clutter busting session.