Detox your In-box


With warmer weather just around the corner, I am in full Spring cleaning mode – only not in the ways you might think. Instead of focusing on windows and garages (though I’ll eventually get around to that, too), I am on a major digital rejuvenation kick…

I finally cleared out my email accounts — over 24,000 emails sorted, organized, deleted, or saved (if essential), resulting in less than 60 emails in my inbox consisting of my current and potential client communications. I feel like I just kicked a bad relationship to the curb! Even though it doesn’t physically take up space, it is surprising how much stress/pressure that build-up can still put on your life.

Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Create your Folders/Labels BEFORE you sort – Decide before you start what things are vital for you to keep – Make DETAILED folders/labels (to avoid more dump spots) such as Taxes, Medical, Business Receipts, Travel Itineraries, etc. You may have to add a folder or two during the sorting process, but this will streamline your efforts and prevent you from keeping everything.
  2.  UNSUBSCRIBE – No matter how great your intentions, if you haven’t looked at them by this point, you aren’t going to read all those newsletters, tips, or sales leads, etc. 
  3. Stop the coupon madness – coupons are great, but unless you are part of a specialty high-status group (not the generally preferred customer status), most coupons are just a Google or search away. 
  4. Minimize the alerts – No one wants to miss a critical alert, but there is no reason to bombard yourself with reminders that you’ll eventually tune out anyway. Start with sites you frequent most – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. switch off the email alerts and save them for accounts you don’t manage as often. 
  5.  Client communications – Keeping records is essential both for you and your client, but if a client’s project is complete, paid in full, and it’s been over 30 days, you are typically safe to archive. 
  6. Clear out “other folders” first (sent folder, drafts, promotions, social, etc.) Start with your digital junk drawer and circle through any “other” folders at the start. Typically, they are the fastest to sort through and usually contain the highest percentage of disposable emails. Purging a large number of emails quickly will put you in the right mindset to tackle those main email areas and increases the likeliness of you sticking to the task until completion.

For me, the entire process only took a couple of hours – amazing when you think about how many emails I had at the start.

Because it wasn’t one of those to-do’s that required 100% of my brain capacity, I knocked it out during a veg night while watching a movie with my husband. The only other thing that can make this process better? Popcorn. 

6 Month Update:

For those curious whether or not I’ve been able to maintain my inbox after taming the beast, the answer is YES! With minimal effort and keeping my sorting rules in place, I average between 10-30 emails in my inbox at the end of the week (again, just those emails about current or potential projects).

With very few exceptions, subscriptions, newsletters, or non-client-related emails are only allowed to stay until the end of the day on Friday – if I haven’t made time to read it by then – too, bad, so sad, sayonara.

Not only am I more quickly finding the emails I need when I need them, but I also finish the week with an increased feeling of accomplishment and less pull to put in extra hours over the weekend.

By far, the best benefit was also the most surprising – just how much digitally detoxing my inbox would contribute to a more mentally present, fulfilling time with my family.

2020 Update:

Still going strong! It is crazy that just a few hours of minimal effort over 4 years ago is still maintaining my inbox.

The only addition to the system is I have added is a -YEAR- Receipts folder and -YEAR- subscriptions folder, where I save all receipts and subscriptions during that calendar year for easy tax filing and quick retrieval. At the end of the year, I archive it and start a new folder. 🙂 

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