How many hundreds or thousands of emails are in your inbox?

Let’s get real. Email is one of the biggest areas of stress, clutter, and loss of productivity. Below are 5 tips to tackle that craziness. In my time as a professional organizer, I have helped numerous clients, including Marla Dee, take control of their email and digital worlds. I am excited to share my best guidance to set you free.

1. Process your email, do not just check it.  This is one of the most common ways we waste time. When you set aside time to mindfully deal with your inbox, you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get through the emails and, in turn, how much time you will free up for other things in your day. Schedule the time in your day specifically for this. One of my clients calls this happy email time. Think of this as a gift to yourself.

2. Have a System to handle the email. Because the creators of computers were organized, they set up the system to dump all your new emails into your inbox and the ability to set up folders. However, you need a simple, effective and supportive system for the handling the incoming. To effectively process your email you’ve got to know what to do with each one. This can be overwhelming when you have hundreds pouring in each day. My suggestion is to process by sorting first using a simple sort into 4 subfolders. I use the same system for my email that I use for my paper and digital filing systems. To iR.A.F.T.© my email, I have a folder for each type of the following:

R – READ: for all the emails lists I am on. I have a dedicated time each week to read through these. Once I have read them, I toss 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 an acronym for ease of learning the system.

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. If you are overwhelmed even by the thought of trying to unsubscribe to all of that junk, let do it for you…for free!!

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 box and off your subconscious. 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 of general things. If something is of high importance I will save it in the file that corresponds to the email (i.e. A correspondence with a client will be saved a PDF in their folder on my computer).

Please keep in mind that this all takes consistence practice and patience for the systems to work and integrate into your routine. Over a number of years, I learned all of these things the hard way and I am still practicing them. Even though I have the foundation and systems in place, sometimes I simply don’t follow them. Manage email and organize my computer? No thanks, I’m going to the mountains! The great thing is that they are implemented, which makes it fairly quick and easy to restore homeostasis.

Please write and let me know what you do to help with the email clutter.

All my best,

For more information on using iR.A.F.T.© for your paper, Go to our iRAFT Page.

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