Digital clutter is a thing. Although it is present in many ways, its lack of physical appearance allows us to ignore it. This type of clutter appears as a disorganized desktop, misplaced electronic files, multiple copies of the same documents, and misspelled file names, among other things.
Our digital clutter causes us to spend precious time looking for information, going through duplicated files and folders, forgetting tasks, and missing appointments. Digital clutter fills up our hard drives, and before we know it, we have 10,000+ messages in your inbox as well.
Organizing our email system might be a daunting task. However, email is so front and center in our lives that a change in this area can produce substantial changes to boost productivity and increase our efficiency.
Here are some email management tips to start reducing electronic clutter.
How about setting up a folder for promotions and store-related matters? If your email service does not allow creating folders within the inbox, consider setting up a separate email account just for stores, ads, and orders. After setting up that folder, go through your current retail subscriptions and move each one to the new folder. Instead, if you need to create a new email account, change the email address retailers use to communicate with you to the new account’s email address. Then, only check your new retail folder or the new email account when placing orders. Finally, clean out the new file or inbox monthly.
Email and Breakfast Do Not Match
Avoid reading your email first thing in the morning. When you do, you let someone or something else prioritize your day. This practice sets the day off to a stressful tone—instead, schedule times during the day to read your email. You will notice an increase in productivity in your email response time and other tasks.
“You’ve Got Mail”
For most, the chime of a new message creates an immediate reaction to check the email. Turn off notification sounds that make you jump and see how more productive you become. You lose momentum and efficiency when distracted by email notifications. And remember that the multitasking phenomenon is a myth. Attempting to multitask makes us absent-minded and derailed.
Add important senders right to your address book. Otherwise, their messages might appear spam or junk, and you will miss important information and dates. Keep your contacts updated for your peace of mind.
Managing Emails Efficiently
Strive to read each email only once. Using folders and category options in the email is a necessity. Use the following categories or actions for each email message:
- Delete – When the message is not needed now or later, delete it at once.
- 2-Minute Action – if your response or action to this message will take less than 2 minutes, process the information at that moment and then delete it, if possible. If the answer or action to take requires additional time, leave the message in the inbox as a reminder to tackle later.
- Pending Matter – Messages with information to be referred to in the short-term future and notifications to remember can stay in the inbox until the time comes to act on these. Limit inbox messages to follow-up and immediate action items to allow these messages to stand out.
- File – File messages or notifications containing information for future reference. These messages might deserve a permanent electronic file but removing them from the inbox is important.
An inbox containing 4,230 messages will not help improve efficiency or boost productivity – it will hide essential messages that should stand out for your inbox to become a productivity tool.
More importantly, an inbox with this many messages is evidence of delayed decisions. An inbox full of messages of all kinds is no different than that basement or garage, where you keep things “just in case” – no one knows what is in there for sure.
Digital clutter might not be as apparent as physical clutter, but it affects us. And whether the mess is digital or physical, it creeps up every time we postpone decisions and actions.
So, decide and act promptly and consistently when processing your email messages. Decrease your digital clutter by increasing your inbox control.