Saturday, April 2, 2011

Let Go and Torch Your Inbox!!!

Caution: if you have less than a 1000 emails in your inbox, this is probably of little interest. However: With over 5500 emails in my inbox this week, some 1900 of them unread, coupled with the fact I can't find a thing for all the clutter. I went on the attack. Honestly, if all of those had been pieces of paper, I'd have dumped them in a ditch somewhere, used a little gasoline, and flicked a match into the whole big messy pile. Here's a picture that gives a pretty good understanding of my situation, looked like before I began to try and figure out how to deal with it. Hopefully, none of you ever get into this situation. But if you do, I learned some things that may be helpful if you decide to "torch your inbox". My first concern was the unread emails. Were any of them important, why were they unread, and how can I sort them out....without deleting something that's going to cost me. Here's how I approached the 1900 unread emails. Go to your inbox and come to your first week old unread email, why is it unread?

  • Is it an advertisement? I had 100's of emails from American Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Grocery Stores, etc. Why, because I like to get cheap airline tickets and buy stuff o n sale. So all you have to do, is type in and hit search. What comes up is a list of all of these adevertisements I never had the time or interest to read. Worse yet, I found one from, from when I bought Mom a Christmas present two years ago. I have been receiving these every couple of weeks now for years. I deleted most of these suckers first since the sales from last August are more than likely to be over and honestly, I don't buy a whole lot of women's pjs.

  • Is it an "Autoreply"? These are things that say "Autoreply. Jim is out of the office and won't return until the 4th of July." These are aggravating, because it means your message isn't going to be seen until some future date and secondly you get the "stupid autoreply". A search of "autoreply" enabled me to kill several hundred unreads in one shot.

  • Is it a Newspaper update ?- I subscribe to several different newspapers online. Honestly, I don't have time to read all of them most of the time. But I always tell myself, I'll read that when I get around to it. Problem is, I never get a "round toit". So long, Dallas Morning News! These things come daily and somertimes more often, they add up fast.

  • Is it some Political Stuff ?- I figured out, if the email said "from the Whitehouse" or "from Senator So and So", that it probably was not an invitation to dinner, but more than likely a request for cash.

  • Does it say "Accepted / Rejected"? - if you are in business or use your email and calendar to schedule meetings and events, you get an email everytime someone accepts or rejects your invitation. One thing for sure, you don't need to keep these if the meeting has been over for a week or more. Give em the eighty-six.

  • Unopened Email from your Boss or Coworkers - Yikes! How can this happen? Well, about half the time or better, I have already found whatever the email says before I get the email. This being the case, why bother to open it? If it is something you already know. Is it because I am clairvoyant, Hell No! It's because they call me first and tell it to me and then the dummies feel the moral obligation to remind me in an email. Kill 'em.

Using these techniques, I whittled down the "unread to just 12 unread emails". These were important, so I saved them in a folder called "important". Now what about the other 3600 emails in my inbox that had been read, but never deleted? Here's how I approached this monster batch of emails;

  • Is it from a friend? A lot of my friends send me jokes, which is great, but I always kind of felt obligated to keep them since they came from my friends. Further, my friends and family share important stuff either in person or on the phone. I deleted all of these. So now, you can email me an old joke and I'll probably laugh again. But this time I'm deleting it after I read it.

  • Is it from a business associate? OK, now some of these can be important. What to do? Tag all of the ones that are older than 90 days, and store them under a file name or label on your email. "Archiving" works also.
Using these and several other "home-made" efforts, I was able to go from 5500 emails in my inbox to only about 150. However, as in many things "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". What you read above took me about 8 hours; and it was the pound of cure...that I had to do. Here are some ideas for preventing the problem in the first place:

  • Unsubscribe - to emails and newsletters that are no longer of interest to you.

  • Practice the 4 D method - when you check your email: 1. "Delete" any obvious junk. 2. "Do" any tasks that will take less that 5 minutes. 3. "Delegate" the task if you can. 4. "Defer" more lengthy tasks, until after you have cleared your inbox. Obviously, I didn't think this one up; it is very unlike my usual habit of using #4 exclusively.

  • Create a "read later" folder, for things you may be interested in but don't have time to read now.

I hope this was helpful and I hope I haven't bored you to tears with this effort. However, I am kind of amazed that I got through the mess.

All the best,



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