Tag Archives: clearing out your inbox

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 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

Tips For Adulthood: Five Reasons To Clear Out Your Inbox

Every week I offer tips for adulthood.

As many of you know, I recently moved house. And in the process of tossing out assorted long-dormant items like my son’s erstwhile Playmobil castle and the fish poacher that was serving as a spice rack, I realized that I shouldn’t limit my decluttering to actual stuff. It was also time to do a virtual declutter.

As I’ve said before, I’m not one of those die-hard Inbox Zero types. I’ve come to accept that there will always be a certain base level of flotsam cluttering up my inbox. Otherwise, I’d do nothing but eliminate emails all day long.

But there comes a time – and everyone has a different threshold – when you just can’t bear to look at your inbox splitting at the seams anymore. For me, it was when my inbox went over 1000 messages. (I won’t tell you how much over or you might gasp.) And I knew that it was time to get our my virtual hacksaw and start chopping.

If you’re like me, you probably dread the idea of sitting down and going through your inbox. Maybe there’s stuff in there that you’re trying to avoid. Or you fear that by managing your inbox, you will necessarily *not* be doing something else with your time. Or maybe the whole task is just too daunting.

But today’s post is meant to help you see that by setting aside time to clear out your inbox, you’ll actually feel calmer *and* more productive. Here’s why:

1. You get ideas. I’ve posted before about how I come up with ideas, whether it’s taking a “thinking shower” or going outside for a walk. When I get those ideas, I usually write them down in a little notebook I carry around that’s precisely for that purpose. But sometimes – and especially if it’s an idea that I plan to save for a later date – I write myself an email about the idea with the thought of subsequently storing it in a file on my computer. Except that sometimes I never actually complete that second step. And so the idea – which has subsequently gone completely out of my mind – is essentially lost, drowning in the sea that is my inbox until I find the time (which could be weeks, even months) to rescue it. Clearing out your inbox reminds you of those little gems that are hiding in the recesses of your brain.

2. You take action. And once you’ve been reminded of that cure for cancer you came up with while jogging one Thursday afternoon back in March, you might actually be inspired to do something about it. In my case, my virtual decluttering prompted me to send off an essay I’d written (gulp) 18 months ago to a major media outlet and also to get in touch with an agent I’d flagged but never actually contacted. Those were both things I’d been meaning to do for ages. But until I happened upon those items in my inbox, I completely forgot that they were even on my to-do list.

3. You reconnect with people. Just as the decluttering entailed in moving house reminds you of important people from your past, so too does scrubbing out your inbox remind you of friends and relationships that matter. I just found an email that was several months old from a friend of mine who moved to Colorado last year. In it, she not only brought me up to speed on what she’s been up to, but sent me an article about her new employer that reminded me – in turn – of an idea I’d been meaning to write about (Twofer! See #1). Another email from an old friend reminded me that his father had passed away. While I’d already sent my friend a condolence letter, I now remembered that I’d wanted to send his mother one as well.

4. You feel accomplished. If you’re like me, half of your inbox is filled with things like “Buy bananas!” “Get birthday present for X!,” “Write post on Z!” So half of your inbox is filled with things you’ve already done. (And we all know the joy of retro-actively crossing things off our to do lists!) With the rest of the items, you’re hopefully either executing them (see point #2) or storing them in a virtual home. Either way, you’ll feel like you’re getting stuff done.

5. You relax. And this is perhaps the greatest benefit of all. There’s nothing quite like a good, old-fashioned declutter, whether real or virtual. It takes years off your life…removes pounds from your body…lifts scales from your skin. (O.K., I”m mixing metaphors a bit but you get my drift.) Short of doing yoga, there’s really nothing quite so soothing.

Image: Inbox Zero by eweibust via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl