Are you caught up in the ongoing battle of inbox clutter? Welcome to the club!

Email is absolutely one of the biggest places of stress, clutter, and loss of productivity. Below are 5 ways to tackle that craziness. And let me just say, that it definitely takes practice and consistency for them to work.

1. Process your email, do not just “check it.” – This is one of the most common areas of email time waste. When you set aside time to mindfully deal with your inbox, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get through things and in turn, how much time you will have for other things in your work day. Schedule the time in your day specifically for this.

2. Have a system for the incoming. To effectively process your email you’ve got to know what to do with each one. My email system is the same as my paper system. To R.A.F.T.© my email, I have a folder for each step.

R – READ: for all the emails lists I am on. I have a dedicated time each week to read through these. Once I have, I toss them or file them.

A – ACT: for the emails that need a response, or info needs to be placed on a calendar, etc. Each day I have scheduled time during the opening and closing of my work day to handle these.

F- FILE: for future reference.

T – TOSS: this is just my trash folder, but I like to stick with acronym for ease.

3. “Unsubscribe”!!! – There is a wealth of information on the internet and most of us want to read up on our fair share. Subscribing to email lists is a great way to do this…until the emails start flowing in. Be realistic about the information you truly want to receive and unsubscribe to the rest.

4. Do NOT use your inbox as your To Do List – As a former “email to do list” junkie, I cannot stress this enough. Combining your to do list with emails makes both systems less effective mostly because you get lost in between the two lands. Use your planner, a spreadsheet or an app on your phone for action items.

5. Clear out “Sent” and “Trash” folders – This is just like taking our house trash out to the curb for pick up. It’s clutter, it’s sub-conscious stress. Get it out of your email and off your mind. Depending on how often you reference your sent files will depend on how far back you want to keep things. For my line of work, I only save a month’s worth.

To reiterate some of my statements above, I learned all of these things the hard way. The honest truth is that I’m still practicing them. Even though I have the foundation and systems in place, sometimes I simply don’t follow them. The great thing is that they are implemented and therefore make it fairly quick and easy to restore homeostasis.

Please write and let me know what you do to help with the email clutter – Kate Fehr

For more information on using R.A.F.T.© for your paper, Read This Post.

R.A.F.T.©, Diane Hatcher 2000-2015