Which would be chaos were it not for the fact that I know what every single thing is in those scattered piles. And if I put things away, I forget to deal with them. Out of sight, out of mind.
The same goes for my inbox. I tend to file or delete things only when I know that I don't need to work on them anymore. The result is usually upwards of 200 emails in my inbox. And let's face it, sometimes things get buried, and sometimes things don't get done. So it was time to make a change. I got my inspiration from a blog I read recently. Suddenly I realized I had 289 emails in my inbox and I had to get control of my life, because my inbox is basically my life for 40 hours a week . This is the story of how I got my inbox to look like this:
Yes that's right, it's empty. More importantly, it has remained empty all week. And I can't even tell you how good that feels. The best part is, to the best of my knowledge I haven't forgotten to do anything (knock on wood).
The biggest problem for me was figuring out a filing system that would get these emails out of my way, but still let me know that I needed to be thinking about them. Let's zoom in on my files, shall we?
Similar to a task list, I categorized emails based on how soon I needed to do something with them. For me, the categories that made sense were "end of day," "end of week," and "when you have time." I created a "still in process" folder for those items that weren't finished, but the ball was in someone else's court. And finally a "read" folder for e-newsletters, etc. that I need to glance through at some point. These are my working folders. I asterisked each of them so that they would appear at the top of the list. Below, I created a folder called "files" (I'll pause while you appreciate my naming creativity). This is everything that I'm done working on but need for my records.
Well this all sounds good in theory, but does it work? So far, the answer is yes. Whenever I get an email, if I can't immediately deal with it, I file it accordingly. And the great thing about a completely empty inbox is that it's glaringly obvious that I need to look elsewhere. So each day I make sure I've touched everything in the "end of day" folder. If I can't finish it, it stays there so I know to keep it as a priority for the next day. I also scan through the "end of week" folder to see if there's anything in there I can wrap up, and I check the "still in process" folder to see if the status on any of those items has changed.
I also realized how many emails I was hanging onto for absolutely no reason other than I'd forgotten to delete them. This system is making it easier for me to delete unimportant things if they don't belong in any of the folders. This must be what it feels like to be a minimalist...
I'm hoping this new-found organization will spread to other facets of my life (aka my house and my desk), but baby steps, my friends. For now, I feel confident for the first time in a long time that I'm in charge of my emails, not the other way around.
How do you organize your inbox?