New Year Means New Inbox

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What Secrets Lie In Your Inbox?

Get rid of the electronic trash in your life.

If you’re feeling like everyone else on my social media feeds, you’re welcoming 2017 with open arms!  However, if you ring in the New Year doing the same old thing as last year, your past and present are bound to meld together.  Rather than waiting for something better to happen spontaneously, take some proactive steps this year.

The perfect starting point for 2017 is taking on your electronic trash. In other words, get rid of the email that is buried in your inbox.  The thought of getting rid of stuff that you haven’t read and may need or could use seems risky.  However, it could lead to less mental clutter and the subsequent confusion that we all know clutter creates.  

To help you figure out where to start, I have resolved to share my story.  On this day in history, I have 16,759 emails to be read in my inbox.  Why you ask?  Shamefully, I am an information hoarder (and probably a hoarder in general).  I keep documents just in case I might need them.  Sometimes I actually do need that memo from 2007 —  like twice, ever!

I have file cabinets, boxes, bags and piles of papers.  They are marked with a year so that when I get past the 24 month mark, I can just grab the file, box, bag or pile, shred the contents and then set it out for recycling.   However, my email has not been so carefully categorized and prepped.  There is so much of it, that I just ignore it.  That’s right, I don’t even bother reading it.  If I missed it today, I am not reading it tomorrow.  I just move on.

To address my deficiencies, I set out on a mission to trash my emails.  However, after several hours of deleting, I was down to 16,172 unread emails. Why oh why is there so much of it???  What do I do with it???  

Based on my calculations, I would need to read 539 emails per day for the next 30 days to get rid of my unread emails.  Even if I speed read, that is almost 9 hours per day.  I can think of better things to do with my time.  For instance, I can do actual work that gets me paid or spend a leisurely day drinking mimosas (of course, then I couldn’t read the emails LOL).

Since going through that many emails in my spare time might take a year, I have opted to just move into 2017 with a plan for preventing my inbox from getting any larger.  Here is my four-step plan:


1) Declutter the No-Brainer Categories

  • Empty your spam or junk mail folders.
  • Delete items categorized as drafts.

Most email systems allow you to categorize incoming mail as spam or junk.  If you sent it to this folder, you don’t want to be bothered.  So make it official and empty your junk mail box.  Don’t read it.  Open the folder, check the box at the top or “all” and select the trash icon.  Gone!      

If you started an email and didn’t finish it or made a draft email just in case you might need it, call it what it is–useless.  Most of my drafts are emails that I started from my phone and thought that I had deleted anyway.  Just delete the drafts.    


2) Let Go of Information that You Don’t Use or Need

  • Unsubscribe to e-news that you don’t read.
  • Delete anything older than 24 months.
  • Junk the junk!

For the next seven days, when you get electronic news that you never open, do the opposite.  Open it and find the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email.  Resist the urge to downgrade to fewer emails or whatever other ridiculous offer you get to stay in touch.  Just press the button and walk away.  

If it arrived prior to December 2014, delete it…  delete it…  delete it…  Unless you have some reason to keep it forever, just delete the entire thread.  If it was important, you should have printed it or moved it to a priority box.  Bygones!

If emails somehow manage to bypass your spam and junk filters, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t junk.  If you wouldn’t keep it if it arrived at your home or work desk via snail mail, delete it!!!                        D-E-L-E-T-E IT!!!  


3) Take Action on the Emails that Bombard You Daily

  • Delete automated email threads.
  • Use your R-A-F-T.

Start from scratch this year by deleting automated email threads from vendors like Office Depot, Apple, or your favorite local restaurant.  Do not unsubscribe. Going forward, read the new emails then delete them or move them to a priority inbox (like a paper file, but not).

After you read your email, Refer it to someone else, Act on it, File it (in a priority inbox or paper file), or Trash It.  If you know how to set-up your email system to do this automatically, great.  However, if you don’t, skip the tutorials and just forward, delete or file wisely.


4) Why Not Just Delete It All!!!

In the face of devoting such a huge amount of time to old email you may be asking “Why not just delete them all?” The most obvious reason is that some of the emails might be important.  The second is that there may be legal reasons to maintain the emails.  For instance, my largest email collection is for work and I actually have to keep work-related email for 2 years from the date I receive it.  The third is because some if it might be good reads (but probably not).  

I have resolved myself to the notion that most of it must go!!!  All of those bold emails are killing my productivity (and yours too).  They contribute to a sea of lost messages that go unread, unanswered and ignored.  No one needs 16,000+ emails (except maybe Hillary…  hehehe…  sorry girl, I couldn’t resist…  I love you!!!).  Not only is it a ridiculous amount of cyber mail, but it is a bridge to mental waste and uselessness.

As you consider ways to make 2017 better than 2016 (I seriously need 2017 to rock), join with me in getting rid of the electronic trash in your inbox!  Make the decision to get rid of the stuff that you can see but can’t touch. Unless you truly believe that your inbox is loaded with the secrets to good will, good fortune and world peace, begin to use your delete button today.  2017 will thank you for it!


-Tommeka Semien


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