(The first step is admitting I have a problem)
When I got to work on Friday morning, I had over 2,500 emails in my Inbox. I have no idea how many I had in my Sent Mail folder, but my Deleted folder had over 9,000 emails all waiting for me to hit the button and permanently delete them.
My entire mailbox was 1,058,359 kilobytes (that's 1.00933 GIGAbytes for you techies) in size. That's pretty big.
My goal for the day was to reduce my overall mailbox size by as much as I could. I know that's not very specific, but it honestly wasn't even within my realm of possibilities that I could achieve the infamous Inbox Zero status.
I simply wanted my email to easily convert easily from life on our servers to life in the Cloud so I would be able to work this morning without incident. The smaller the mailbox, the quicker the conversion over the weekend and the less risk for problems.
Immediately, I understood that there was no way I could review every single email and I was going to have to make some decisions. I started by deleting everything in my Inbox from 2011 (when I started working at LFGSM). That knocked out some, but didn't make a dent.
Next, I organized my email by sender and this was the key to my success. I started by deleting all unsolicited emails from businesses trying to sell me something, all emails from listservs, all one-off emails, and all personal emails (there were only a small handful of those, really). Now, I'd gotten somewhere. That took me down to about 750 emails.
Up next on the chopping block were emails from former employers. I was able to quickly glance through those, file any that I needed to keep, and delete the rest. This cut my Inbox in half.
375 emails were manageable, so I reviewed what was left by sender and subject. If I'd answered the email, there was nothing for me to follow-up on now, and the project was complete, I hit delete. If they were emails I needed to follow-up on, I created a "to do" on my calendar for tomorrow. If they were emails that contained valuable information for a project that's active, I filed them in the appropriate project folder. This took me to 20 emails.
Twenty emails that required immediate action. I took action, deleted the emails, and viola! I had achieved Inbox ZERO!
Now, my whole mailbox is 179,973 KILObytes (0.17164 Gigabytes)! That's right, I reduced by mailbox size by 83%! That's so great, I've got to say it again, but slightly differently. My mailbox is a mere 17% of its former self. Damn. I'm good.
How does this feel? It feels freeing. I am liberated from the stress that I've overlooked something in my email. I'm not worried that I should go back through my email and find out what's there. 99% of it wasn't important.
My goal now is to maintain this and to go home nightly with nothing pending in my Inbox. To achieve this goal, I've created new rules for my listserv emails and other low and high priority emails and I've unsubscribed to vendors who have nothing to offer me.
What types of folders and rules have I created? I created folders for emails for my boss, for departments, for subscriptions from LinkedIn and CASE, and out of office replies. Emails from my boss are obviously high priority, so I have directed them to one folder where I can easily find and reply to them quickly. Out of office emails from alumni often contain valuable information (e.g., "Bill Smith no longer works at Xerox") and they're mildly important, but I only need to review them weekly. If they're in one place, I can quickly scroll through and extract the important information. Likewise, my CASE, LinkedIn, and Listserv emails sometimes contain information I like to know about, but I don't need to review them daily.
Those are just a few of my secrets to keeping my email organized and reduce my stress level.
What are your tips?
P.S. I came home tonight at Inbox Zero. Day 2 is in the books.
Here's what Inbox Zero looks like.