Want to have more money, more time, and more energy? I have the answer for you! It's right under your nose (or right under your fingertips, as it may be.)
If you are anything like me, you have a super-sized email Inbox. Hundreds, if not thousands, of unanswered emails are lurking in that seemingly innocuous location. It's so easy to lose control of your incoming messages, especially when you are juggling multiple accounts from work, your personal life, your volunteer efforts, and your shopping addictions. You may be wasting precious time that you could be spending making high-value phone calls, connecting with your team and advocates, or simply taking some much-needed time to reset your brain before tackling a big, brain-heavy project because you are surfing through dozens of emails that you have already looked at once -- or seventeen times -- before.
Recently I found myself at wit's end about how much I "had to" do (I say that facetiously, because I don't have to do any of them, I GET TO). I had become a sweaty, nervous stress bunny because all of the things I had been ignoring in my ever-expanding Inbox From Hell. I'd make cursory sweeps through it several times a day to find the most important of the least important things that would jump out at me. This was causing me to be distracted, unfocused, and ultimately, unproductive.
Here are a few choices you can make to take back control from the Inbox Demon:
1) Read David Allen's Getting Things Done. This book changed my life when I realized that I was wasting significant amounts of time and energy rifling through information points over and over and over again. Do yourself a favor and learn how to control your inputs through conscious mastery of the Four Ds: (Delegate, Do, Defer, Delete).
2) Carve out a weekend to invest in your sanity. Yes, you will need at least a full weekend to tackle your digital spaghetti pile. You cannot expect to plow through all of the emails while fitting it in between meetings, phone calls, and personal obligations. You'll need quiet, unobstructed time to get that bad boy under control. Ask your family for it and tell them how important it is for your productivity and, more importantly, your state of mind. Brew a nice cup of coffee early in the morning, and get started. Don't open ANY other application or browser. Just. Do. It.
3) Address EVERY SINGLE EMAIL in your Inbox so you can delete that sucker from your life forever. This will require a fierce dedication to resolution on each and every one, no matter how big or small. If it needs to be kept, file it in a different place (I use Evernote for what Productivity Jedi Michael Hyatt calls his "digital brain") and tag it so you can reference it later. If you need to order something, do it. If you need to unsubscribe to a newsletter, click away. If you need to follow-up with someone, follow-up. If you need to print out an important item to address on Monday, then do that. Just don't let any stragglers hang out there. This is important, because there is a significant emotional victory that you will experience when you see '0 messages'. It will make the investment worthwhile. I promise.
4) Stay on top of it. This is the hard one, because life will happen. You'll have an all-day conference and before you know it, your Inbox has 200 emails in it. For most of us, it is unrealistic to think that we can have zero messages remaining in our Inbox every single day. But try to make it at least manageable, so when you do have to do steps 2 and 3 again (and again...and again), it won't be as horrible as the time before.
If you do these simple, but not easy, steps to clean up your digital landscape, you will find that your brain opens up to whole new worlds of creativity, passion and power. You will no longer be dogged by the nagging feeling that something is hiding behind that folder that you should be doing. You'll KNOW where everything stands, which will enable you to refocus on the true priorities that will bring about greater money in your pocket, more time in your day, and more spring in your step.
Good luck, and happy deleting!