You declutter the rooms in your home—the cabinet in your office, the shelf in your entryway, the mail on your desk—but what about in your digital life?

Rightsizing your space takes time. Similarly, managing your inbox is an ongoing project. This job is never completely done. Email is like washing laundry or doing the dishes—there will always be more to go through.

Is an inbox full of spam keeping you from the mail you actually want? For instance, do you have missed work messages, misplaced invitations, and e-bills buried under ads? You might even consider opening another account, just to escape that mountain of junk. A place for easy communication becomes a daily stressor if you don’t stay on top of it. Likewise, your productivity suffers when time is eaten up by inessential tasks.

However, the good news is you have the power to tame your inbox. This month, we have put together some tips to stop cycling through unwanted offers and spam. Also, check out our ideas to spend more screen time on productive and important tasks, and less on digital stress!

Follow these steps to free yourself from electronic clutter:

  • To begin, schedule time for a clean-out. If your inbox is crammed, this probably means that you are busy and haven’t had time to tidy up. Prioritize organization to get it under control. Add an event to your calendar. Then, let your coworkers and family know when you will be busy. In addition, turn off your phone and computer notifications to avoid distractions. 
  • Next, think about what updates, newsletters, and ads are relevant to you. Certain emails are called junk for a reason and are filtered for you. However, some of them come from pages or sites you’ve subscribed to without knowing. You can stop many of them. Scroll to the bottom of those unwanted emails and unsubscribe. Some senders even let you control how often you hear from them, rather than just stopping the emails altogether. 
  • Then, look at how you categorize your folders. Do you need as many subfolders as you have? Could you condense them? Save time on an email scavenger hunt. Use an easy filing system for quick access to information. Ask yourself, “Do I need this archived?” 
  • In addition, think about if you are an “innie” or an “outtie.” Innies prefer things stored out of sight. Outties like to have all items visible in their email. For an outtie, if the email isn’t there, it is “out of sight, out of mind.” 
  • Innies should stick to two or three folders. First, an “Action” folder containing items to act on. Second, an “Awaiting Response” folder for things you are waiting on others for. And third, an optional “Reference” folder for emails you regularly review or that contain important information. Archive all remaining emails. Search for them when you need them. 
  • For outties, use the Inbox Zero method. This method uses your inbox as your to-do list. Once you act on an email, archive it. Use the browser extension Boomerang to help. This free tool notifies you if you get no response back to an email after a specified time frame. Also, you can use this extension to write an email beforehand and schedule a time to send it automatically. 
  • Regardless of whether you are an innie or an outtie, keep it simple. Resist the temptation to create many separate folders. Ask yourself, “Do I really need to archive (or print) this email?” Most of the emails we archive (or print) are never opened or referenced again. 
  • After that, review your security and filter settings. Go into your account settings to filter and block emails. Keep unwanted addresses from sending you stuff altogether. Missing messages you actually want? Check your spam folder occasionally and mark things that are not junk. This makes important emails less likely to be lost to the spam folder. 
  • Finally, once you have tidied your inbox, create a plan to maintain it. Take time to manage your inbox before it becomes an issue. If possible, read and reply to emails in the early afternoon. Try this after you’ve reached decision fatigue and before you get your second wind. Avoid doing it first thing in the morning or during your peak productivity time. A majority of emails don’t require you to be at your best to answer.

A Last Note On Productivity

Set rules for yourself and expectations for others to keep your digital life productive. For example, use a rule to deal with a backlog of newsletters. Limit yourself to keep only the most recent ones, and delete the rest. Say, “I’ll only keep the three latest daily digests of X.” And, when working with other people, train them not to expect an immediate response. Use an autoresponder to let others know when you will read and respond to their emails.

    Once you feel comfortable, see if you can go further. Take a digital sabbatical. Try it for a day, a weekend, a week, or an entire month! Feel refreshed and more productive the next time you log in.

    Going Forward

    Conquer those expired coupons, spam senders, and irrelevant messages. Use these strategies to declutter your inbox and to focus on what’s truly important. Above all, live a more productive, intentional, and organized digital life! Are you feeling stuck or in need of help with your rightsizing project? Please reach out to our team of professional organizers. We would love to help rightsize your digital space, office, or home. Book a free exploratory call to get started.