I thought that the invention of email was supposed to simplify my life!
But as I sat in front of my computer, I was overwhelmed by how many messages were lingering in my inbox. Because for some reason, I hadn’t allowed myself to hit that one button that promised to set me free:
Armed with a timer, an accountability partner, and a goal to delete at least 200 messages, I began the task.
Then, I had a sobering thought: if there were almost 800 messages, how many of them represented unfinished business? Had people made requests of me, and I hadn’t responded? Were there things I wanted to follow up on, but hadn’t taken the time? Were there decisions that I had delayed because they were unpleasant or overwhelming?
I wasn’t sure what these answers would be, but I pressed on anyway.
My progress was slow, as I went through each individual email. Then I got an idea: what if I sorted the messages by sender? It would be easier to delete several at a time. I knew that all of the emails from my dear husband and former employees were handled or obsolete. So I deleted them (almost 200 total), and felt an IMMEDIATE sense of relief!
Sorting by sender also allowed me to see other clusters of emails related to past projects and last school year. So I deleted those, too.
Some emails contained irrelevant information or advertisements. So I clicked “unsubscribe” to the ones I wanted to stop getting, and then deleted the messages.
Other emails were part of a string of back-and-forth messages. So I read the most recent message, kept it if I needed to, and deleted the rest.
And finally, there remained about 50 emails that I needed to deal with. As my resolve and motivation began to drain, I fought back with a brisk 10-minute walk and a bag of popcorn. Then I returned to my desk, put on some music, and dug in.
A few messages required quick follow-up to see if the issue was handled. Some required archiving in project folders. And others were going to require some legwork. I delegated as many of those as possible.
When I finished, the only items remaining in my inbox were emails with photos attached that I needed to save on the computer at home, and a few emails that were less than 1 week old. I’d consider that a major success, wouldn’t you?
So, what’s lurking in your inbox? If you’re ready to clear the clutter, block out a couple of hours on your calendar, get some happy music, and just do it. You’ll be so glad you did!
P.S. – there are many other methods for cleaning out your inbox and setting up a system to keep it under control. Just do a web search for terms like “email bankruptcy”, “email management”, and “email zero”. Warning: some of them are pretty radical!
Reflection: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
Journal: Is email clutter accumulating in your life? If so, are you ready clear it out? Journal about any feelings of hesitation, any new insights you discover, and what you experience after the clutter is gone.