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Simple Inbox – Never Miss a Thing

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In response to a readers question a few weeks ago I wanted to share with you a chapter out of my Simple Living – 30 days to less stuff and more life book.  E-mail is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to time and organization.  Here is what I have learned to keep it under control.

Lesson 13 – E-mail

Frazzled and crazy in-boxes often end up making for frazzled and crazy schedules and lives where things are missed or forgotten. The goal today is to:

  • limit what comes in
  • speed up what goes out
  • organize what needs to stay

To start, let’s spend some time limiting what comes in. Basically put, unsubscribe to everything you don’t read. Most e-mails sent from companies or websites have a link at the bottom that has instructions for unsubscribing. If you have just been deleting the e-mails as they come every day, take the time today to go through and unsubscribe to as many as you can.

If your e-mail carrier has the ability to label specific e-mails as “junk mail,” make sure to do that when you see unwanted spam e-mails in your inbox. They will be directed to a junk-mail box instead, and you can look through it periodically if you think you might be missing something. Ideally, everything coming into your inbox will be something you want to look at.

Once that’s been addressed, we need to create some folders, which are hugely important. Everyone will have a different collection of folders, but I want to suggest including the following three:

  • “Important to save.” These are things like password information for sites or other information you need to keep for a long time, not funny forwards (you can have a separate folder for funny forwards if you want).
  • “Needed information for the next month.” This is a folder for things like schedules, church information, school information and backup files—stuff that you will probably need to look back at but after a month (or sometimes longer) will no longer be important. It will be easy to go through the oldest files in this folder every few months and delete them.
  • Need to do – This is a folder where you put e-mails you have read and need to act on. Typically, if you can write a quick e-mail back or take care of the issue right away, it won’t go into this folder. Things that go into this folder are things you “need to do” but don’t have time to do right away.

Create more folders as you see themes among what you want to save. In a perfect world, you will have a clean inbox every day after you have gone through your new e-mails. If you don’t have a clean inbox, you need to work on that for your assignment today.

Extra credit:

Decide how often you want to check your e-mail a day or a week and see if you can stick to it.

Have you learned other tricks for keeping e-mail under control?  (if you are reading RSS join us in the comments)

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4 Comments

  1. Great ideas. I’ve set up some folders in the past to try and deal with emails but I like your categories better, will give it a try. Have enjoyed reading all through your blog in the last few days.

    • thank you 🙂

  2. I have to give credit to David Allen’s book Getting Things Done for my system. 🙂 My folders are similar to yours. I never move anything to a folder until it is on my to-do list, and I do my best to clear my inbox out completely every night. My folders are “action pending”; “waiting” (on someone else), and “to read”. Then I have my archive folders of things that I don’t think I need but want to hang on to until I’m sure like soccer schedules and things from the kids’ school. I have a business too where I go to clients workplaces about once a month, so I have separate “action” folders for those so that when it is time to go to those, everything is all in one folder. Works great for me!

    The other thing I do is I have a completely separate email account to give out to businesses. That way I can still get the great coupons for restaurants, etc. by just searching there. Otherwise I ignore that email and then I don’t have to process all the “junk” email. You are better at not shopping than I am, so you probably don’t have a need for that at all! 🙂

    • Different e-mails is great too! I have three different e-mails feeding into my one mail box but 2 go do different folders. One is an old e-mail address and doesn’t usually have urgent items, and the other one is connected to my blog. I can check these boxes separately than my main one (even though they are all coming to my gmail account) and it helps me not miss urgent stuff.. hopefully 🙂

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