The One Mistake That Keeps our Inboxes Cluttered
I’ve decided to create habit themed months, and for August it’s “Clear Out Your Inbox of Clutter”.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: if you’re sitting with an inbox full of emails you are sitting in a pile of clutter.
Like a really cluttered desk, or that room that becomes the “catch all” for stuff you just can’t sort right now (aka. my laundry room).
Except the thing with the inbox, is that this is a pile of clutter that mostly probably has to be addressed or responded to at some point.
I mean, the box of great aunt Edna’s fine china, or the pile of winter clothes that you didn’t put away doesn’t need a response usually. But that email about that new client really does. And probably within a short amount of time.
So waking up and opening your inbox to hundreds (or thousands) of piles of things that need to be addressed, or were addressed but still sitting there, is just extra stuff our brains to process.
We only have a certain amount of bandwidth every day before we need to sleep and spend time recharging.
So keep it simple.
There is one common mistake that I see happening a lot (and I used to be a part of it) that keeps email clutter in the inbox and not moved out to where it can rest and hang out with it's buds for the rest of its life:
HAVING MULTIPLE EMAIL FOLDERS TO STORE OLD EMAIL.
You should have 2.
Max 4 if really needed, but 2 is good.
“But Brooke, things will be a mess, how will I know where everything is? How will I find stuff? This is against good organization principles.”
And to that I say…
If you are on a good email system it should have excellent search capabilities, and flags. I don’t remember the last time I went into a file folder to look for something. I just searched for it and found it within 10 seconds.
Thinking we have to organize and categorize all of these emails is another task in itself. A low-priority task in the big scheme of “bang for your buck”, and something we are likely to put off. Hence, they stay in your inbox because you will get to it at some point, but in the meantime, they create clutter.
Here’s what to do:
Create 1 file folder.
Label it something nice. Mine is called “The Parking Lot”, but it can be way nicer than that, and I should really think of something prettier.
In one shot, put all of your emails in there when you are done with your daily email triage and processing.
Search for them later if needed, in your search bar, using search operators.
If you need to categorize something super important that you KNOW you will have to revisit at some point - like emailed receipts and invoices for year end - you can do one of two things:
Create an extra folder for these items (keeping in mind that you should max out at 4). Or;
Flag them with a certain colour (like the "blue info" flag). Then run a search like: has:blue-info and voila, all of those emails are there. Organized.
No more complicated email trees. No more “Friday morning email sorting time! Yay!” because we both know it’s a big waste of time and it almost never happens.
Get those emails into their final (simple) home and out of your inbox.
Until next time,
PS - Next month’s efficiency habit is “Creating Content” so be sure to look out for emails and posts on Facebook for tips and hacks and tools.
Registration for Business Systems Made Easy for Executive Coaches is now open! From CRM set-up to designing your workflows and easily tracking your coaching hours, we cover it all during this 6-module online course. Click here to register today.
Brooke Simmons is the principal of Green Door, small business systems strategist, baby pilot/aviation nerd, yogi and nature lover. She loves mixing super practical systems strategy with a cup of common sense and a dash of mindset mastery. She works with clients by creating courses and programs to help them master their business and 1:1 strategy sessions. You can get in touch with her here.