This is a guest post from Carolynn, a former teacher turned stay at home mom of four children; ages 6, 5, 3, and almost 2. She is very sentimental and likes to keep everything. She also gets overwhelmed very easily when it comes to organization. Unfortunately, Carolynn usually put off organizing until she’s so stressed she has to do something about it! Carolynn blogs about parenting, couponing, and Financial Peace University at My Little Bit of Life.
How I Went Through over 16,000 E-mails in Just Over 3 Months
I used to have an overflowing e-mail inbox; now I have a manageable inbox.
Here is how I made it happen:
My e-mail inbox was an area I let slide for a long time. I figured it really didn’t matter; no one else had to look at it. It’s not like it was bothering anyone else and I didn’t have to clean it up for guests either. Having this apathetic attitude about my e-mail soon found me in a tough spot. I had over 16,000 (that’s right over 16K) emails!
Problems began stacking up. If I needed to find a specific e-mail, it would take a long time! I would do a search and then have to spend a lot of time going through just the search results and hopefully find my desired e-mail. There were many times I did not end up finding the e-mail (until I cleaned out my inbox).
Since I could not find the e-mails I was looking for, I had to start bothering other people. I had to ask for it to be sent again, causing some people quite a bit time spent for my irresponsibility; which is one of my biggest pet peeves. I cannot stand it when people are inconsiderate of others, and here I was, being an offender. I finally admitted, “I have a problem!”
So I set a goal to organize my inbox. I had that specific goal for a few months. I finally realized that this goal wasn’t good enough.
I sat down and made a specific goal for myself: I will organize/delete at least 350 e-mails a day.
Goal in Motion
- I started with the oldest e-mails.
- I highlighted them by clicking on the delete box at the top.
- I scanned through who sent the e-mail, if I found one that I might need or want to read then I looked at the subject.
- Then I looked through all the subjects (I highly recommend doing both because there were many times I found an important e-mail that I needed to keep, that I would have missed by only looking at the sender OR the subject), if I found one that I might need or want to read; then I looked at the sender.
- I “un-clicked” any e-mails I thought I would need/like to keep.
- I then sent each specific e-mail to their specific folder. If I didn’t already have a folder set up for the subject, then I made one right away and filed it.
By using this technique, it took me a tiny bit over 3 months to go through all of the e-mails. Now I still have to go through each individual folder, but it’s so nice and calming to see less than 25 e-mails in my inbox.
I have also been very successful at being able to find important e-mails. This took quite a bit of discipline, but it was well worth it. I made myself delete e-mails (usually 70) right when I would sit down at my computer and another 70 right before I got off the computer. If I had not deleted 350 e-mails (or 10 “pages” of e-mails) before 9 PM, then I would head down to the computer and finish.
When I achieved my goal, I did a happy dance and told my husband (he almost fainted, but that also could have been due to him working out with the Kinect too!) ;)
I still have to be diligent and make sure that I don’t fall back into a rut. Now that I have my in-box down to a manageable size, I have started to “unsubscribe” to things like crazy. I know some people told me to do that in the beginning, but I couldn’t handle making all those decisions at the same time (Do I keep or delete? If I keep, where do I file it? Do I want to unsubscribe?), it was too mentally cumbersome!
If I am having a very busy week, there are some days that all I do is check my e-mail and make sure there isn’t anything pressing that I have to attend to. Then on the weekends, I spend a little time to get it back down to only 25 or less. I have learned that if I have to do something with the e-mail, and that something will take less than 5 minutes to accomplish, then it’s easier, more time efficient and energy saving to just take care of it, then I can delete it and move on!
I know this sounds funny, but I feel so much “lighter” now that I’ve gone through this process. I know no one knew about it (other than my husband) but I knew. I knew there was something daunting hanging over me, I knew I was being inconsiderate, and I felt like I was letting myself down.
I love the ease of being able to find what I need. I love the serenity that has come from breaking the mountain down, and sweeping it away, piece by piece!
How do you keep email under control?
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I’m a wife. I’m a mom. And I don’t like to clean! With a house full of boys, though, cleaning is inevitable. That's why I've made it my mission to find the best organizing and cleaning tips. Hopefully, those tips will help us spend less time cleaning and more time with the ones we love.