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Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Declutter Your Inbox (Part 2)

A few weeks back, I took a break from RealDelia to declutter my inbox. Things had gotten to the point where every time I opened up my laptop and saw...

A few weeks back, I took a break from RealDelia to declutter my inbox. Things had gotten to the point where every time I opened up my laptop and saw 2,896 messages, I started getting heart palpitations.

(Mind you, I’m someone who’s been known to start cleaning up dinner dishes *before* the meal is over – (I know, it’s awful) – so it really was torture for me to keep revisiting this primal injury every time I sat down to work.)

Needless to say, about four fifths of the messages either concerned an event which was already long completed or constituted a reminder to – guess what? – clean out my inbox.

But the other 1/5 were actually useful in a variety of ways. The last time I attempted a virtual declutter, I wrote a post about why clearing out my inbox made me feel both more relaxed and more productive.

This time, the process also proved worthwhile, although for slightly different reasons. So I thought I’d share some of the pearls of wisdom garnered from Clearing Out My Inbox (2.0).

Here are five (more) reasons to clear out your inbox:

1. You discover new technologies. If you’re like me, your partner (or a friend…or a fellow blogger) sends you the link to a really cool new technology and you immediately file it under “To be read/looked at/digested…” You know it’s something really neat that you really *should* take a serious look at but, hey, you’re busy. So you figure that it can wait until that miraculous day a few weeks from now when  the clouds part and it stops raining and you’re slowly sipping that cup of tea and calmly revisiting your bookmarks and…what’s wrong with this picture? That day never happens, that’s what. Which is precisely why it’s a good idea to clear out your inbox. In doing so, I stumbled across a little gem called Evernote – a free application that allows you to keep your to do lists online and access them from any computer, anywhere. Which – bonus feature! – means that you don’t need to keep them in your email, thereby increasing your inbox tally – or on small scraps of paper lying around your desk. So get thee to Evernote. You’ll thank me later.

2. You are reminded of old projects. Another benefit that comes from a good, healthy virtual decluttering is that buried underneath the 16 reminders to have lunch with Aunt Sue last December before the holidays (and be sure to call her first!) are a bunch of emails having to do with projects that you’ve let wither on the vine. That might have been intentional or it might have been an accident. But, either way, they have gone neglected. When you clear out your inbox, you stumble upon them and remember “Oh yeah, right! I meant to do that!” In my own case, this process enabled me to create a new list (guess where? Hint: See #1!) of U.S. agents that I’d like to send my book manuscript to. I hadn’t exactly forgotten that I wanted to do that, but cleaning out my inbox forced me to start dealing with it.

3. You are reminded of old contacts. In a similar fashion, you also stumble upon old contacts you need to get in touch with but have forgotten about, lost their emails, or otherwise dropped the ball. But once you start whittling down your inbox, voila, there they are. It pains me too much to talk about this right now, but we may need to move again sometime relatively soon. And we all know how I feel about moving. In going through my email, I came across the name and contact details for an estate agent here in London who was really helpful the last time we moved and whom I’d completely and utterly forgotten about. Yay!

4. You come across great book/movie recommendations. Whenever someone recommends a book or movie to me, I tryto write it down somewhere right away (in the case of a book) or add it to our queue in Love Film if it’s a movie.  But – as per #1 – I frequently fail to take this step and so, there it sits, languishing in my inbox. But one of the great joys of last week’s purge was coming across some great recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers that had fallen off the radar screen. Like this pick from my fave book blogger, Book Snob. Or the movie, The White Ribbon, which I’d heard so much about but somehow went MIA. I cannot *wait* to tackle these over the summer. And guess where I’m saving this new list of recommendations? (Hint: See #1. OK, I’ll shut up now.)

5. You realize how far you’ve come. This is the best part of all. Because so much of what’s cluttering up your inbox is old “stuff” you’ve already dispensed with, decluttering allows you to realize how very much you’ve accomplished. That might be in the personal realm – a new friend you invited to coffee – or the professional realm – the draft of an article that’s now published. For me, the biggest payoff was to see how much I’ve learned in the past two years about blogging. I’m still learning (thank goodness!) but a lot of the stuff lying deep in the recesses of my inbox were links to other bloggers offering tutorials on the basics of blogging. It was so great to be able to now delete those messages to myself, and to do so with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

So what are you waiting for? Try it!

Image: inbox zero by eweibust via flickr under a creative commons license

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  1. BookSnob May 13, 2011 at 6:57 am #

    Thanks for the shout out Delia!
    I GOT heart palpitations hearing about your inbox.
    It’s my to do list, so if it’s large, it means I haven’t done much.

    I guess I reveal my compulsiveness when I say that my inbox (at work) has to be under 50 messages. Almost always.

    Now my house…well, not nearly as organized : )

  2. John Bates May 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    One of the most useful things about Evernote is the fact that it also works on smart phones, like the iPhone or Android devices, which means that all those notes are instantly accessible and update-able on the move. And of course, if you like Evernote you’ll love Dropbox ( which allows you to access your documents whether you are at home, at work, or elsewhere and keeps then synchronized whenever you edit them. These have both been lifesavers for me.

  3. howie snyder May 20, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Excellent points! I need to get to this. Thanks for sharing!

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