Written By: Stephanie Ghoston
I find that most people oscillate between periods of extreme OCD and ADD. For example, a few months back, I cleared 10,000+ emails from my inbox. But it takes me weeks to clean my room because I wax nostalgic about the items I find under my bed.
Email has especially been a source of consternation for me. I'm a Gmail user, so I tend to go label and filter crazy to no avail. But after losing a major opportunity because I failed to follow up, I decided to try something different. For some reason, I kept going until I had 126 emails left. Since then I've maintained an inbox of 100 emails or less. Here's exactly how I did it:
MINDSET PRINCIPLES FIRST. You must ingrain these principles into your brain. Repeat and revisit them. Don't question them.
**If you haven't read it in a year, you won't.
**If you haven't read it yet, you don't need it.
**If you do need it, you can always find it somewhere.
**Don't keep subscriptions/emails because you feel bad.
First: make sure your view is set to the maximum amount of emails per page. This will make mass selecting much easier.
Mass tag + Mass delete: Do you have multiple subscriptions? UNSUBSCRIBE, MASS TAG, DELETE. Are you part of a google group chain? LEAVE THE GROUP, MASS TAG, DELETE. Does your grandma send you forwards that promise impending death if you don't pass it on to 7 people? Search your inbox based on the email address, select all conversations, then delete. Just press it.
Do you use labels? If you're like me, you probably have labels for everything. I still had labels from the bar exam, law school, and undergrad. These emails are completely irrelevant now. Your senior study guide is definitely outdated. Delete the entire label and its contents.
Bonus tip: in Gmail, if you hover over the sender's name, a small box will come up. Choose "emails" and all emails with that person will come up. Select all, mass delete.
Sigh. You're more than halfway there! That was the easy part.
Now, arrange your email in reverse chronological order (oldest first). You probably have emails from 2008 that you were supposed to read/keep/forward/whatever. Select all for that first page. Quickly scroll through and make sure there's nothing you absolutely need/want to keep. If so, un-check the box for that email [do you really need it?]. Then press delete.
Make one to three labels for the emails that are left over. I used: "useful" which encompassed pictures, articles I'd already read, or useful business resources; "Cultivated Sense" all things to do with my coaching business; and "wedding" self explanatory.
Bonus Tip: use Google Drive and Dropbox to organize important files and attachments. You can simply drag and drop those as you delete!
To the extent that I saw an old email from someone I wanted to keep in touch with (I formerly kept a label folder called "keep in touch"), I sent them an email immediately (right then and there) and deleted the old one. If they don't get back to me, they weren't a great contact to begin with. Plus I have their email if I ever need it. If you need to follow-up with someone regularly as part of your job, go ahead and make a label for "keep in touch" or "follow-up."
This takes patience. You have to set aside time each day to clean out your inbox. I recommend waiting until at least noon to do so unless you have urgent emails that must be taken care of in the morning. Setting aside time also you aren't checking and deleting constantly throughout the day and wasting time.
If you regularly receive emails from a sender, filter those emails directly to their designated folder.
You may have other subscriptions that you didn't delete during The Purge. Be sure to unsubscribe from those as well.
All other emails, try to take an immediate action. Delete, put it in your calendar and delete, download the attachment and delete, or respond right away and file/delete.
Don't forget the Mindset Principles. You'll start to feel bad about unsubscribing, or you may be tempted to put off responding and/or reading an article.
Did I miss anything? I'd love to hear your favorite mindset principles and inbox maintenance logistics!
Stephanie Ghoston is the founder and life coach of Cultivated Sense, a movement that promotes ordinary ways to live extraordinarily and encourages people to stop settling in life and love. She's also a love coach and matchmaker with the Paul C. Brunson Agency, an award-winning boutique matchmaking and lifestyle coaching firm. She's a regular contributor for the Black Life Coaches Network and has been featured on blogs such as For Harriet and The Art of Perspective. Her recent offerings include a discussion series on the untold stories of women in power and business entitled Pastries and Champagne and Activate Your Extraordinary, an audio coaching program designed to help women stop hiding, get clarity, and start living on purpose. She's also a Best-selling author featured in 20 Beautiful Women Volume 3: 20 More Stories That Will Heal Your Soul, Ignite Your Passion, And Inspire Your Divine Purpose. Stephanie loves helping people through life transitions and empowering them to cultivate their own sense of how to manage their daily lives. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter @cultivatedsense, www.facebook.com/cultivatedsense and www.cultivatedsense.com