How To Declutter, Organise and Empty Your Inbox
And keep it that way!
FINDING THE INSPIRATION AND INFORMATION
I am not naturally an organised person. In fact, I am the complete opposite. I have high stress and anxiety when it comes to productivity and organisation. Slowly I have taken the steps to reduce this stress and anxiety and organise my life, both digitally and on paper and I'm still learning.
I have read quite a few books on how to organise your digital life and will be sharing these with you in due course. Each taught me something new and helpful. One book, however, encompassed most things I needed to declutter and organise my productivity, workflow and the puzzle that is my brain and imagination. It used language that resonated with me and is current to the world we live in now. The book I recommend and will be referring to in this post is How To Be A Productivity Ninja by Graham Allcott. I highly recommend it if you'd like to delve a little deeper into being more productive. However, in this post, I will be focusing on how I got my inbox to ZERO and KEEP IT that way!
SCREENSHOT OF MY INBOX TO MOTIVATE YOU :)
YOU HAVE TO WANT TO DO IT
There is no point in doing this if it is something you don't care about. This is not an easy, fun job. It requires time, perseverance and the desire to be more lightweight and productive. The want to better your lifestyle and be more slow living. It is SO worth it though I promise. :)
SET ASIDE HALF AN HOUR EACH DAY
Dedicate a time when you are most productive and won't be too deterred by how boring of a job this is going to be. For me, it's 9-11am and then 1-3pm. Decide what times work for you, but also go on feeling and mood. My mood changes every day so I would tackle this whilst I was on a break or watching Ru Paul's Drag Race or some other Netflix show! :) I love to multitask! Some days I would do 10 minutes in the morning, and then 20 at night or vice versa. There is no guideline. You know yourself best so make sure you do this when you are your peak energy/productive times.
STRUCTURE THE WORKFLOW
Step one: Create Folders
According to Graham Alcott in How To Be A Productivity Ninja the key is to limit your folders. It is actually counterintuitive to over-create for every single type of category. I used to do this and it actually ended up confusing me even more because I had to navigate and remember more. I followed his guidelines but tweaked them slightly for me. This is not my original idea. I took this out of his book and adapted it for myself.
I use Apple's default mail system, Mail, so these instructions follow the Mail system but are easy to apply to any mailing platform.
Action - emails that need to be dealt with
Waiting - emails that are out of your control that either you are waiting for a response from or that require further action by someone else other than you.
Read - Things you want to read that require no particular action. I put my unread newsletter articles in here that I haven't had time to read yet. (try not to keep this untouched and constantly filling up. Try to really go through and read your articles!
1. Finance (anything with money attached to it, e.g. receipts, invoices, quotes etc.)
2. Work Finance (optional. I put this in as I like to separate work from personal)
3. Confirmations, Subscriptions, Memberships, Warranties (bookings, reservations etc)
4. Personal (friends, family etc.)
5. Newsletters - all read newsletters that you wish to keep go here
6. Work - all work related emails
(side note: I reordered my folders so that Action, Waiting and Read are at the top since they will be checked the most. Go ahead and order/reword everything else to what works for you.)
YOU DON'T NEED SUBCATEGORIES!!!
Trust me on this one. These are all the folders you need because the rest your brain can remember and you can use the search bar for. For anything that you think you cannot remember, I would flag or make a note of it somewhere else where you collect all your notes. For me, it is Evernote, where I can utilise the tagging function and capabilities. (I will do a blog post about this another time.)
Step two: Organise Into Folders
Set your inbox settings, whatever platform you are using, to Oldest message on top, or Ascending. This means that you get all the old, forgotten about emails out of the way first.
Don't dilly-dally, you will usually make a gut decision about where it goes. The first thing that comes to your mind is what where it usually belongs.
BE RUTHLESS. These are emails not a house you're deciding to buy.
TOP TIP: When you know that you will have a lot of bulk emails such as from Amazon or a newsletter or subscription and you know that they all belong in the corresponding folder, just search for it in the inbox, do a quick sweep to check they are all relevant and then select all of them and drag into the folder they belong in. SO quick right!
Decide whether you want to flag or just use the @Action folder. I use both. This is your call if you want to have double insurance over those important emails that need to be dealt with.
KEEP IT AT ZERO! BUT DON'T OVER-THINK IT!
CONGRATULATIONS!!!! You did it! Doesn't that feel AMAZING! It is totally worth all the time and energy it takes to do it, because once it's done, your workflow will increase dramatically and you will win back precious time. Visually and subconsciously it will relax you, knowing before you've opened your inbox that either it will still be at zero or the only emails you have to deal with are the ones in the actual inbox, Action or Waiting. This sense of calm will hopefully allow you to continue keeping your inbox this way, knowing that at last, you can feel that anxiety slip away as you check those dreaded emails!
I turn all my email notifications off on my phone and on my computer. This allows me to check my emails at certain intervals in my own time which for me are, after breakfast, at lunch time, and around 5/6pm just before I choose to finish work. This means I can control my stress levels. Some days I have some spare time and am feeling less stressed and very productive so I keep my inbox open on my computer (only on my computer!), and have the emails come through with notifications. Know and understand your limits and do what is right for you. Others handle stress better than some. I still answer all of my emails and know what needs to be answered straight away and what can wait.
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own. This post includes affiliate links and I would love if you decided to use them. Affiliate links + referrals programs help educators like me, at no extra cost to you, fund the free content that we provide on our blogs.
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