Digital Organization: The Inbox

Oh my goodness. Thanksgiving has come and gone and we are quickly heading into Christmas season. I started listening to Christmas music yesterday evening while coming home from a family celebration. Earlier this afternoon, we braved a few crowds (really, it was the drivers that were the worst part) to snatch up some “late” Black Friday deals we ran across while browsing. I say late because, well, we weren’t insane and didn’t wait in line for 5+ hours outside of a big box store (I’m looking at you, Dad) so we only go the leftovers.

Does it even really count if your Black Friday “deal” you got excited about was canned green beans and cream of chicken and cream of mushroom soup for .10 cents less than normal?

Ok, so we got a printer, too. But it was a business expense and we were planning on getting one, regardless. It just happened to be cheaper today.

Anyway, I have spent the past hour or so relaxing on the couch, using Hulu Plus to watch the Biggest Loser Thanksgiving special, and trying to gain control of one of the last bastions of super UNorganization in my life. My email Inbox.

[Insert ominous music and terrified, painful screaming here.]

I was inspired by a post by Arianne Foulks over at Oh My! Handmade Goodness I read recently on how to end each day with an empty inbox. Really, go read this post immediately if you want to get the best possible explanation. Seriously. Go. I’ll be waiting.

Are you back? Fabulous. Now, let me tell you, I’m starting with the amazing idea of skipping the Inbox for all mail that I can read at my leisure. I’m even doing it for all mail that IS important, but is easily divided into neat categories. My inbox will be the area that independent emails come to rest. In other words, a real person wrote them and I will want to see I have new mail. While emails that an automatic email created to be sent to me (from my bank, from Etsy, from PayPal, etc.) go to their respective folders, STAT!

Granted, this hasn’t been easy. Even with a separate email address for only friends, family, and legitimate legal or business-related entities, I still get mail I don’t really want to read immediately but might want to read later, and many of the emails are from a single entity that uses multiple addresses or subject line formats to send mail. So I have been creating labels and filters and grouping them together to catch all the emails from that entity. For my “wanted junk-mail” email, I’m going to even create filters and labels for Shopping. All those alluring private deep sale sites that call me to their webpage … siren song, be gone! I’ll come to you on MY terms now!

Here’s some helpful tips from my experience in progress:

  1. If you have Gmail, make use of the ability to group labels. This means you could create the label “Services,” as I have, and then create sub-labels for the different service providers you might get emails from. For instance, I’ve included my hair salon and my public library.
  2. Don’t be afraid of the delete button. If the information expires (sales, past invitations to movies or parties, etc.) it is okay to delete it. Obviously, this does not apply to any email you may need to archive, such as client requests or tax filing information.
  3. Make information gathering a one-stop or specific stop event (even if that means several different tools for different kinds of information.) Up until recently, I’ve used my inbox as my sole information deposit. Bad idea. Can you say “information overload?” I even had my blog subscriptions all sent to my inbox and emailed myself notes. I loved that I could search all content to find what I needed and I could use it at work if necessary. But now I realize that I’m suffering from information overload and I’ve finally begun using Google Reader to subscribe to blog RSS feeds–all in one place. I’m also hunting down unique ways to gather ideas, inspirations, and information. Pinterest is great for inspiration (no more magazine clippings all over the office and house!). I’ve been told Evernote is great for filing any digital information for ideas and notes, so I’ve just signed up to use it. And instead of archaic, clunky bookmarks, use a service like Gimme Bar, Snip.It, Blink List or Clipboard. I’ll share more on these at a later date.
  4. Commit to empty your Inbox on a regular basis and file away important emails that were missed by the filters. Again, delete emails that have lost informational value. Move emails to folders or labels for future reference. Make it a goal to have zero emails at the end of the day. Just look at that pretty background with no subject lines on it! Wow.
  5. Here’s a final tip I have learned from several time-management books: set aside specific times of the day to read your email (if you can, wait until your primary tasks are complete and you can focus on sorting mail as you go.) Yes, people who email you frequently will pick up on the fact that you usually reply after 2pm. That’s okay. That’s good, even! This will free you up to really focus on work and not feel at the mercy of the Inbox. I’m still working on this one.

Basically, the summary is: filter, file, delete, and schedule.

And definitely, definitely read the comprehensive how-to over at Oh My! Handmade Goodness. I promise you won’t be sorry you did.



Filed under Balance, Organizing

2 responses to “Digital Organization: The Inbox

  1. Pingback: Digital Organization: Blogs | Behind Closed Drawers

  2. Pingback: Digital Organization: The Desktop | Behind Closed Drawers

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