Managing emails seems to be hard for many people, and I get asked a lot how to stay on top of the situation and not get overwhelmed. We receive more than our fair share of emails every single day; it rivals snail mail. This seems to be a very appropriate time for me to share these tips with all of you as I just finished cleaning out many months of emails in my Inbox, Sent Items file, and Deleted Items file.
My biggest suggestion is that you deal with emails on a regular basis. You may want to handle your incoming emails several times a day, but you may not want and/or need to clean out your virtual files as often (weekly, biweekly, monthly, whatever works for you). You want to make sure you maintain your Inbox, Sent and Deleted Items files, and virtual files before they become overwhelming and you can’t find anything. Asking yourself some questions may help when deciding whether or not to keep emails. Here are some examples.
- Do I need this email for legal or tax purposes?
- Under what situation would I need to refer to it again?
- Will the email help me with my business, any of my life’s goals, or whatever project on which I am working?
- What would happen if I got rid of it?
While I was working on my project, I would have loved to delete everything and start from scratch, but I knew I couldn’t do that. I really kept asking myself what would actually happen if I couldn’t find a particular email, but at that point, I wasn’t at that stage (although I could have reached it in due time – LOL).
Initially, I sorted the From column in alphabetical order and deleted all the emails in my Inbox and Sent Items file that I knew right away I did not need or want anymore. I use Outlook, and I have to manually delete what is in my Deleted Items file, but at least they were in a file waiting to be permanently deleted. For those emails that I wanted to keep and review before deleting, I created virtual files, just like you create files for your hard copies of documents, and dragged and dropped emails into these files. I used meaningful names, and finally, all I had to do was figure out which ones I really needed to keep and which ones I no longer needed. Basically, I followed my own organizing process – putting like with like and then purging what I didn’t need or want.
Some of you have emails that you have to act on but not necessarily at the time of reading them. There are several schools of thought as to what to do with them. My advice is to do what makes the most sense to you. You can keep them in your Inbox and use your Inbox as an extension of your To Do List. Color coding could help, but be careful, as this idea could potentially get out-of-hand. You may want to create a To Do file and put the emails in there to act on them later, thereby keeping your Inbox as clean as possible. Or, you may want to file them in one of your virtual files and know you must look in those folders to handle the To Do. Whatever process you choose, make sure it works for you. Periodically, these virtual files need to be cleaned out just like you do with your hard copy files.
So, now that I have my emails under control, these are the four (4) tips I am going to follow going forward:
- File or Delete.
- Delete permanently if your email program doesn’t do this automatically.
As with anything that needs to be organized, you want to control the clutter, not have the clutter control you. If you have another way of managing your emails, please let us know. You never know who you may be able to help.
BB’s Clutter Solutions is located in Cherry Hill, NJ and serves New Jersey (north and south), Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs, and New York City. Contact information: www.bb-clutter-solutions.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 856-912-0077.